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#8 Tennessee Too Much For #10 Oregon St.

Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison out-battled Oregon St.'s Ruth Hamblin, and the Lady Vols downed the Beavers by 11 as a result.
Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison out-battled Oregon St.'s Ruth Hamblin, and the Lady Vols downed the Beavers by 11 as a result.
(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Eighth ranked Tennessee, and Isabelle "Izzy" Harrison, were too much for tenth ranked Oregon St. Sunday in Knoxville, and the Volunteers pulled away from the Beavers for a 74-63 win.

The 6'3" Harrison dominated the game, out-playing Oregon St.'s 3 inch taller Ruth Hamblin, and Tennessee also got better consistency, and had better depth, than Oregon St., who contended most of the game, but couldn't sustain hot early outside shooting, and ran into foul trouble, largely of their own making.

Hamblin opened the game with a basket and a blocked shot that tied the Oregon St. career record, but wasn't a factor offensively again until she started the second half the same way, with the first basket of the half, and the block that made her the all time leader at Oregon St., with 209.

However, Hamblin picked up her 3rd foul not 6 minutes into the second half, and though she sat for only a little over 3 minutes as a result, Oregon St. didn't remember that Hamblin is their leading scorer until there were less than 5 minutes left in the game. Back to back baskets by Hamblin kept the Beavers in the contest, cutting a 7 point deficit down to a 63-60 margin, but then back to back fouls less than a minute apart, the last one 18 feet from the basket on a moving screen (with the ball better than 20 feet out) ended her day early.

Tennessee made 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to stretch out the margin to a double digit win.

Oregon St. withstood an early 8-0 run by Tennessee, and responded with a 7-0 run of their own that opened a 22-18 lead, as the Beavers made 5 of their first 8 3 point shots, and their defense held the Lady Volunteers without a field goal for around 5 minutes, and to only 2 in a nearly 10 minute stretch.

Sydney Wiess' personal 5-0 run, capped by her 3rd 3 of the first half, opened a 34-29 Oregon St. lead, but a 6-0 run to the break, including 4 straight by Harrison, saw Tennessee take a 35-34 lead to the locker room.

Wiess was hot early, with 15 first half points, and Gabriel Hanson came off the Beaver bench for 10 more. But the other 4 Oregon St. starters combined for only 7 points.

Wiess hit all of her first half 3s, but also had several driving baskets.

"I was worried about Oregon St. a team that can drive as well as shoot 3s," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, the reigning SEC Coach of the Year, said. "That combination can be difficult, and they made it difficult for us."

Ali Gibson got going in the second half, with 8 straight OSU points, and 12 of 14 after Hamblin's half opening basket. But Jamie Weisner, who had had a decent defensive first half, but was invisible on the offensive end, remained so in the second half, and didn't score until there were 7 minutes left. It was her only basket of the game, and except for a pair of Weise free throws, the first points not produced by Gibson in over 12 minutes.

Gibson had gotten Oregon St. a 50-48 lead  with 12 1/2 minutes to go, answering a Harrison basket, but Tennessee then ran off 4 straight points, the second basket off a steal by Alexa Middleton from Hanson, which prompted Oregon St. coach Scott Rueck to take a curious timeout 4 seconds before a media timeout would have come into play, and out of that came another turnover 9 seconds later.

That sequence started a 10-2 Tennessee run, during which Hanson picked up her 4th foul, with still 10:22 to go. Rueck left Hanson in the game, and that lasted all of 55 seconds, before Hanson proceeded to foul out.

It was just the beginning of game management miscues though, as in addition to Hamblin's early departure on back to back fouls, Weisner would also foul out, taking a foul she believed to be her 4th just after hitting a free throw that pulled Oregon St. within 68-63 with a minute and a half to go.

Meanwhile, Harrison and the rest of the Lady Vols continued to play solid all-around games. Harrison, the daughter of former 10 year NFL pro Dennis Harrison, easily exceeded her 11.3 point, 8.67 rebound averages, finishing with 20 points, spread almost evenly across the halves, and a co-game high 12 rebounds, and also a game high 5 blocked shots, eclipsing Hamblin's 8 point, 12 rebound, 4 assist, 3 block that was only credited as 2 effort.

Wiese led Oregon St. with 19 points, but only 4 in the second half, while Gibson had 14, all but 2 of which came after the break.

Hanson had 10 off the bench, but all were in the first half, and Weisner, normally a key cog for Oregon St., never found her offense, finishing with just 3 points, on 1 of 5 shooting, and she also missed a free throw for just the 4th time all season.

Deven Hunter hit an early 3 pointer, but finished with only 7 points, and also suffered a couple of key turnovers, strange in that both came while impersonating a point guard in open court.

Tennessee got 11 points from Cierra Burdick, but also got 12 point performances off their bench from both Middleton and Ariel Massengale.

Key stat of the game, other than the hot half/cold half scoring performances by Wiess, Gibson, and Hanson, was Oregon St.'s outside shooting, which saw the Beavers go 0 of 7 on second half 3s, after a 5 of 8 start, and 6 of 9 first half.

Tennessee also won the turnover battle 19-12, with most of the difference coming in the second half.

"We made some little adjustments at halftime," Warlick, a former Lady Vol player and assistant who took over for the legendary Pat Summit, explained, "but mostly, the message was 'Don't rely on only post players to be the 2nd defender, the help', which prevented them from getting inside-out opportunities."

Oregon St. which entered the game as one of only 7 undefeated teams left in the country, dropped to 10-1 at the conclusion of their non-conference contests, after the best start to a season in team history. The Beavers begin Pac-12 play next Saturday and Monday, with a trip to LA to take on UCLA & USC.

Tennessee extended their home winning streak to 12 games, and improved to 10-2 as they head into SEC play Friday against Missouri.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com