With just over a minute to play Sunday, Oregon State’s Maddie Washington and Aleah Goodman could be seen playing the air drums with big smiles on their faces.
And for good reason.
The Beavers were closing in on another trip to the Sweet 16.
No. 6 Oregon State overcame a 10-point deficit after the first quarter to stun No. 3 seed Tennessee on its home court with a 66-59 win in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Oregon State (25-7) will make its third straight appearance in the Sweet 16 and will face No. 2 seed Baylor on Friday in Lexington, Kentucky. The last time the teams met, the Beavers topped Baylor 60-57 to advance to the Final Four in 2016.
“It’s amazing,” said senior center Marie Gulich, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds, in a phone interview. “It took a lot of believing and power from us and I’m super proud of the team and super excited.”
Mikayla Pivec led the Beavers with 18 points, while Kat Tudor added 13 and Katie McWiliams 12 in earning the program’s first ever win over the Lady Vols, who are now 57-1 at home in NCAA tournament games.
It’s a sweet feeling,” Pivec said of not only the win but handing the Lady Vols their first home loss in the NCAA tournament. “Super excited for our team and we’re not done yet.”
It appeared early the Beavers were on the verge of being done Sunday when they trailed 19-9 after the first quarter.
On top of the deficit, Gulich picked up her second foul with 1.4 seconds left.
But a defensive adjustment, going to a 2-3 zone, and settling into the speed and physicality of the game, turned the tide in the Beavers’ favor.
Gulich remained on the floor to start the period and the Beavers gave up just seven points in the second, the last three coming at the buzzer to give Tennessee a 26-24 lead.
Still, the Beavers, who were prepared to play some zone after watching other teams use it against the Lady Vols and have success, had changed the momentum.
“They don’t really have shooters so we had to take away the rim from them because they are so athletic the way they get to the run so one on one is really tough,” Gulich said.
“I think our zone was just perfect today, the execution and the way we talked, the way we moved as a team as one. Obviously there were a few mistakes but overall I think our zone won us the game.”
The Beavers then dominated the second half, outscoring the Lady Vols 42-33 to get the win that sends them to the Sweet 16.
Springfield High grad Mercedes Russell led the Lady Vols, who have now missed the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, with 21 points.
Russell credited the zone for taking the Lady Vols out of their offense.
“I think it just made us stagnate,” she said. “We were standing on the perimeter a lot, not really passing and cutting, and moving the defense, which we should have. We didn’t really make them work defensively. That’s our part. We have to move the ball better.”
Fellow senior and Oregon native Jaime Nared,a Westview High grad, agreed: “Once that happened, I think everyone kind of panicked. We started standing. We did our initial action and then stood there. When you are making the defense not have to work and just making one pass and shooting it, or taking quick shots and not getting stops the game becomes harder for you to win.”
With the defense frustrating Tennessee, Oregon State’s offense began to click.
Down 26-24 to open the third, the Beavers started 4 for 4 from the field to take a 33-30 lead.
But OSU missed five straight before Tudor hit two free throws to end a 7-0 Lady Vols run.
Those free throws also started an 11-2 run to close the third — capped by two McWilliams free throws — to give the Beavers a 44-39 edge going to the fourth.
The Beavers were 7 for 7 from the free-throw line in the third while Tennessee did not attempt one.
Pivec canned a 3 to open the fourth for a 47-39 lead Taya Corsodale’s corner 3 gave the Beavers their first double-digit lead with 4:39 left.
The lead reached 13 and the Beavers then hit enough free throws to close it out.
“It was great to see how many different players contributed,” Pivec said. “The one that sticks out to me the most is Taya’s 3 that kind of felt like it was the dagger. But so many people stepped up.”
Tennessee Holly Warlick gave the Beavers credit for overcoming the slow start.
“I thought they got more composed,” she said. “We let our offense affect our defense. They’re great at using the whole clock. 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. We didn’t get the job done.”
Down double figures after one quarter and with Gulich playing with two fouls, the Beavers scored eight of the first 10 points to narrow the deficit to 21-17 and force a Tennessee timeout with 6:07 left.
Tudor’s 3 made it a 21-20 game and capped a 9-0 run for the Beavers.
After trading baskets, Tudor gave the Beavers their first lead of the game — 24-23 — on two free throws.
But Rennia Davis’ 3 with 1.4 seconds left gave the Lady Vols, who scored just seven points in the second quarter, a 26-24 edge at the break.