The 14th ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers toppled 7th ranked and previously undefeated Oregon State Saturday night, building a big first half lead, and then holding off a Beaver rally that ran out of gas down the stretch, for the 53-50 win.
Bouncing back from a 69-55 loss Wednesday night at Stanford, Tennessee took it to Oregon State in the first half, mostly because the Beavers shot about as badly as they ever have. After a lack-luster start that saw Oregon State open a 7-6 lead, which would turn out to be their last, Tennessee went on a 9-0 run, and held a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The shooting stats were already foretelling the undoing of Oregon State, as the Beavers shot only 4 of 19 (21%) in the first quarter, and had made only 1 of 8 3 pointers. Meanwhile, Tennessee was off to a 50% shooting start, making 8 of 16, and notably the Vols did not take a 3 point shot. Indeed, they would only loft 2 shots from beyond the arc all night.
Bashaara Graves was primarily responsible for the Lady Vols' advantage, with 7 of her 9 points in the first quarter.
The other sign of trouble to come was Ruth Hamblin having only 1 inside look in the quarter, and that didn't come until there was just over a minute left in the period.
The game was substantially lost in the second quarter, which Tennessee capped with an 8-0 run, and an 18-5 domination after Hamblin hit the first shot of the period.
At the break, the Beavers were still shooting under 22%, and only 14% on 3s, while the Lady Vols had improved their shooting to 55%. Springfield, Oregon, native Mercedes Russell was already in double digits, having made 5 of 6 shots, and Diamond DeShields had 8, having made 4 of 5 shots.
Sydney Wiese led the Beavers before the break, but with just 5 points. Hamblin had only 4 points, and more importantly, had had only 3 looks at the basket in the first half off of a run play, with her first miss coming on an attempted put back.
Tennessee also took much better care of the ball, turning the ball over only 3 times, whereas Oregon State had already suffered 9 turnovers.
After a frank internal discussion in the locker room, Oregon State rallied in the third quarter, giving hope to the crowd of 8,223, the second largest ever to turn out at Gill Coliseum for a women's basketball game.
Andraya Carter's basket opened the largest lead of the game, 19 points, putting Tennessee up 37-18, but Oregon State answered with an 8-0 run, the last 6 points coming on a pair of 3 pointers by Wiese, forcing Tennessee into a timeout 3 minutes into the 3rd quarter.
The Lady Vols responded with an 8-2 run, and the Beavers found themselves down 17 again midway in the 3rd quarter, trailing 45-28, after back to back baskets by Jordan Reynolds, from Central Catholic high in Portland.
The heavy recruiting haul of Oregon talent was a major reason why Tennessee scheduled the home and home last year and this with Oregon State.
The Beavers closed the quarter with a 12-0 run though, half of them by Jamie Weisner, and down only 45-40 heading to the 4th quarter, a successful comeback seemed possible. 50% shooting in the 3rd quarter, a dramatic turnaround from the first half, was why, though Oregon State was still only 4 of 20 from 3 point range.
Marie Gulich's putback made it a 1 possession game 3 minutes into the final period, and Hamblin answered a DeShields basket with what was her 3rd, and unfortunately, last, basket of the game to make it 47-44 with still about 8 minutes to play.
The Beavers then pulled within 1 point 3 different times, as Gabby Hanson hit her first shot since the first quarter, and both Wiese and Weisner answered Vol baskets. But Weisner's basket with 3:13 to go that made it a 51-50 game was the last points Oregon State would score.
The Beavers missed 4 shots to take the lead, this without ever allowing the Vols a possession. But Tennessee finally got the ball back after Wiese's turnover with 50 seconds to go.
DeShields missed twice, but still drew a foul, and went to the line with 34 seconds to go. At that point, DeShields was 0 of 6 at the line, and Tennessee had made only 1 free throw all night.
But DeShields sank both, forcing Oregon State into needing to sink a 3.
Weisner missed, and it looked like the Beavers were beaten with 8 seconds left. But the Pac-12 officials spent several minutes reviewing the play, and finally awarded the ball back to Oregon State for one last chance, thoroughly infuriating Tennessee coach Holly Warlick.
But typical of the terrible shooting of the evening, Weisner was long on the 3 to send the game to overtime, and Tennessee had the road win that improved them to 8-3 for the year, and the Beavers had their first loss, dropping to 8-1.
Weisner's last miss capped a 0 of 10 shooting night for her from 3 point range. Weisner wasn't much better, making only 3 of 10.
Overall, Wiese finished with a game high 17 points, on 7 of 17 shooting, and Weisner added 16, but on 6 of 23 shooting.
Hamblin had a co-game high (with Weisner) 12 rebounds, but finished with only 6 points, on 3 of 8 shooting. 2 of those were 15 and 9 foot jumpers, which means she only had 5 inside looks at the basket. This in 39 minutes of playing time.
This, and sticking with 3 point shots that weren't falling, were the game plan head scratcher that made no sense, and why Coach Scott Rueck continues to fall into the trap of jump shooting with a dominant post player not getting the ball is as mystifying as it is maddening. It depends on shooting accuracy that can't always be assumed, and that's what lost the game.
Oregon State shot less than 31% for the game, despite the big 3rd quarter, and shot 17% from 3 point range.
Meanwhile, DeShields had 14 to lead Tennessee, and Russell added 12, but the key numbers were the discipline by Tennessee to keep going inside. DeShields shot 50% for the game, on 6 of 12 shooting, and Russell was 6 of 8. Graves had 9 points, but on efficient 4 of 6 shooting.
Tennessee cooled off to 44% shooting, making 25-57, but never fell into the trap of trying for the lightning strike shot to stave off the Oregon State rally.
Warlick, who played for legendary Hall of Fame Tennessee coach Pat Summit, and was an assistant under Summit for 27 years before taking over for Summit 3 years ago, learned well where basketball games between top 15 teams are won, and it isn't 20+ feet from the hoop.
"They came out tough, and we've got to be able to match that, and we didn't," Weisner said. "At halftime, we said 'This is our house', and came out and played with heart (in the comeback), but there wasn't enough time."
Oregon State will try to bounce back Monday afternoon, when they play the 3 PM opener to a double header at Gill against Cal-Poly, which the Beaver men will cap with a 6 PM game against Quinnipiac.