Tennessee saw a hot start to the Round of 32 slip away as the No. 3-seed Lady Vols fell to No. 6-seed Oregon State, 66-59 ,Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The loss marks the first time ever the Lady Vols have lost a NCAA Tournament game in Knoxville. The team previously held a 57-0 record when hosting a tournament game.
"You come here wanting to win championships and the expectations are extremely high," an emotional head coach Holly Warlick said after the game.
"Sometimes the things thrown at these kids are unfair. They come wanting to learn and get better and just play the game. They get criticized quite a bit. These kids are tough and they’re resilient. I’m tough and I’m resilient, but right now I’m hurting. But tomorrow we’ll get up and figure out how this team is going to get better."
"You can’t take away the love of this program and the commitment these kids have. If you’re not a part of it, then you don’t understand it. This isn’t about a win or loss. It’s about young ladies getting better on and off the court and I don’t think they deserve half the crap thrown at them. So I’m upset but on the other side, I’m angry. But it’s just a basketball game and we’re going to get better and move on. That’s what we should do. If it means something to you, it should hurt. And those young ladies are hurting in the locker room and so is their coaching staff,” Warlick said.
The Lady Vols (25-8) had a near flawless first quarter, outscoring the Beavers 19-9 and committing no fouls or turnovers. However, Tennessee collapsed in the middle two frames, paving the way for an Oregon State (25-7) comeback by the end of the third quarter.
"I thought they got more composed," Coach Holly Warlick said of Oregon State after the game. "We'd do something well and they'd get out of it and keep attacking and scoring. We didn't get stops when we needed. Credit them, they handled it and attacked the basket.
"We fouled them and they went to the free throw line," Warlick said. "We didn't get the job done."
Tennessee shot 34 percent from the floor compared to Oregon State's 46 percent.
Rennia Davis crashed the glass early and often, finishing the game with 11 rebounds and seven points.
Mercedes Russell notched her 46th career double-double with 21 points and 14 boards. The performance moves her past Candace Parker for the second-most amount of career double-doubles by a Lady Vol; Chamique Holdsclaw holds the record for the most with 57.
It was the senior center's final game as a Lady Vol.
"I have a degree from the University of Tennessee, and I am a Lady Vol forever," Russell said. "Those are two things you can never take away from me."
Senior Jaime Nared finished with nine points, four rebounds and five assists in her final game at Tennessee.
"I couldn't even thank everybody who has impacted my life," Nared said after the game. "Just everybody I've interacted with has just been amazing. Especially, coming so far away from home. Everybody has been so welcoming...It was a blessing to play here with the tradition and this team."
Oregon State will advance to the Sweet 16 in Lexington, where they will play the winner of Baylor-Michigan.
The Lady Vols' season comes to an end under sixth-year head coach Holly Warlick, who has a 153-57 record at the helm.
For the second consecutive season, Tennessee's season ends in the Round of 32; the Lady Volls fell to host school Louisville in the NCAA Tournament to cap the 2016-2017 season.
The loss marks the third time since women's basketball became a NCAA-sanctioned sport in 1982 that Tennessee will not advance to the Sweet 16. The Lady Vols were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2008-2009.