Corvallis, OR -- What a game.
The first quarter started out fairly neck and neck, with both teams playing solid. The Beavers' defense was especially strong early, staying under the basket collecting eight rebounds already in the first five minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, after the opening hype, things started to look a little worrisome and unfamiliar for the Beavers, as the Lady Vols took a lead of 15-7. Oregon State's offense was really lacking, as their performance early did not reflect their previous starts this season catching early leads.
The Lady Vols played good defense, grabbing the rebounds and steals, throwing the Beavers off their game. The team was already looking unrecognizable, as it was obvious Tennessee was beginning to gain confidence. It was 17-11 going into the second quarter, as the Lady Vols shot 53%, doubling that of the Beavers only shooting 23%.
"We just had some things click for us finally. We played hard, and I think our biggest concern was, we talked a lot about relentless effort," Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "Really proud of our kids and their effort."
Good play by Tennessee immediately rolled over into the second quarter. The Lady Vols went on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes, as Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeSheilds, took over the floor making all five baskets.
Though the numbers on the boards were becoming impressive, DeShields was getting nasty on the floor, getting a little too close, flopping to draw the fouls and keeping the ball to herself. There were quite a few questionable calls in the quarter which hurt the Beavers, but what really hurt them was their unrecognizable offense that could not get the ball in the basket.
Syndey Weise made a huge 3-point shot with 3:53 left, which woke the crowd back up, but the excitement didn't last long. The Beavers allowed nine turnovers as the steals kept going for the Lady Vols, and Tennessee held onto their lead, putting the Beavers in their biggest deficit of the season, 35-18.
The Beavers shot only 22% in the first quarter, as the Tennessee Lady Vol's shot 55%. This was the first time the Beavers have not held their opponent to under 40% in a game.
The start of the second of the 3rd quarter reflected a brand new Beavers team. They recollected themselves during the half, and came back into the game STRONG going on their largest run of 8-0. In the first two and a half minutes, Syndey Wiese sunk two three-pointers, which got the crowd going nuts. The fire had been reignited in the Beavers, and they were not stopping there. Weisner brought her presence to the floor with a jumper, which extended this run to 10-0.
But wait, there's more! The Beavers continued to blow up with buckets and back-to-back steals, putting major points on the board. Within what seemed a couple of minutes, Tennessee went from their biggest lead of 19 points, down to FIVE as the Beavers trimmed their deficit going into the 4th, 45-40.
The fourth started off hot for the Beavers with a layup by Gulich, which put the Beavers down only three points. And with a layup by Hanson, it was down to one point. DeShields drew in a foul and attempted for a pair but fell short, putting her at 0-6 for free throws.
Russell put up more points for the Lady Vols, but Oregon State came right back. They held onto a string with that one lingering point, taking shot after shot for the lead and trying again catching the rebounds.
The sweat was dripping, and heart rates were increasing. Tennessee gained possession after Weisner fell out of bounds and DeShieds was fouled, collecting her first two points from the line. Oregon State gained possession, and scrambled to make a basket as the final few seconds remained.
Weisner tossed the ball to Hamblin, but the ball rolled past her which was called as a turnover. The Lady Vols bench went crazy as it was first called that they were in possession, which after review switched to an OSU possession. Jaime Weisner held the ball for a final attempt at a 3-point shot to tie the game at the buzzer, but missed, and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers defeated the No. 7 ranked Beavers, 53-50.
"The games we've won and including the games we've lost, we haven't played this hard. We spent three and a half hours yesterday just going possession by possession critiquing our Stanford film and understanding what was a good shot and a bad shot, quick shot and looked at our turnovers. And it was huge for us." She continued, "I knew we had it in us. We're talented, but talent doesn't always win.
"Early we were a proof of that. You gotta play together, and that talent has to play within your system, so you gotta play hard. Bottom line...." Coach said, "I thought tonight we played as a team, and that's how it has to be for us."
Though this was Oregon State's first loss of the season, Coach Scott Rueck could not be more proud.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team. I thought first half certainly didn't go the way we would have hoped for various reasons, but to be down (19) and then battled the way they did was unbelievable. The crowd was something you dream about. I mean that was a great day for women's basketball anywhere. Not just in this state or in this region but anywhere," he said.
"Would have loved to win it but this is a game that is going to have a say in what this team does the rest of the way. I think we grew a lot today, I loved the fight and the heart and this team we had nothing to hang our head about. If we would have won it, it's one game, if we would have lost it, it's one game; it's one game."
Diamond DeShields was the leading scorer for Tennessee, with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Mercedes Russell ended the game with 12, and Graves collected 9.
Sydney Wiese and Jaime Weisner scored 33 of Oregon State's 50 points; Wiese with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and Weisner with a double-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds.