KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Oregon State coach Scott Rueck had insulated himself from much of the media coverage leading into the women’s NCAA Tournament.
But struggling to sleep at 2 a.m. Sunday morning before Oregon State faced Tennessee in the second round, Rueck stumbled upon an ESPN preview article.
He noticed a nugget about the Lady Vols having never lost at home in the NCAA Tournament and thought, “How often in life do you have a chance to do something for the first time?”
After informing his team at shoot-around about their shot at history, the Beavers went out and added another chapter to their renaissance.
Senior Marie Gulich had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead sixth-seeded Oregon State to its third straight regional semifinal appearance with a 66-59 win over third-seeded Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“We had an opportunity to do something today that is really special and that is a first,” Rueck said. “So when the clock was ticking down right at the very end and we knew we had it, I just couldn’t hardly believe how far this team has come.”
Rueck can say the same for his program. The one-time Pac-12 Conference doormat has become a perennial contender with expectations to make deep tournament runs and share the stage with tradition-rich Tennessee.
The Lady Vols had been 57-0 at home in NCAA play with most of those victories coming under late Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, who led the team to eight national championships.
It’s the second straight season that Tennessee lost in the second round of the NCAAs and will miss the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s 37-year tournament history.
Tennessee (24-8) and OSU (25-7) played an intense game befitting of two teams separated by only one spot in the AP poll entering the tournament.
Tennessee’s swarming pressure defense flustered OSU early, forcing turnovers and contested shots. The national leader in 3-point field goal percentage, OSU started 1 for 7 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
The Lady Vols went on an 11-2 run in the first quarter, punctuated by a Jaime Nared 3-pointer, to take a 17-7 lead. But OSU switched to a zone defense in the second quarter that slowed UT’s offense and began hitting shots on the other end to claw back.
The Beavers embarked on a 13-2 run to take their first lead on two free throws by Kat Tudor with 2:44 remaining in the half. Rennia Davis hit a deep 3-pointer to send Tennessee into halftime with a 26-24 advantage.
“I think it just made us stagnate,” UT senior Mercedes Russell said of OSU’s zone defense. “We were standing around 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.”
The teams battled through a physical third quarter, with OSU attacking the basket and drawing fouls to end the quarter on an 11-2 run for a 44-39 advantage.
OSU grabbed two offensive rebounds to keep a possession alive to start the final quarter, and Mikayla Pivec capitalized with a 3-pointer to set the tone.
The Beavers gradually built their lead to as large as 13 points. Tennessee made a desperate attempt to rally in the final minutes, but OSU managed to keep the Lady Vols at bay and beat Tennessee for the first time in five attempts.
After the final buzzer, the Beavers celebrated on the court as their small contingent of fans behind the bench cheered.
Senior Mercedes Russell finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds in the final game of her Tennessee career. Fellow senior Nared scored nine points on 3 of 14 shooting.
No. 1 Louisville 90, No. 8 Marquette 72
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Myisha Hines-Allen had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Asia Durr scored 19 points and Louisville quickly pounced on Marquette on the way to a victory.
The Cardinals (34-2) advanced to their second consecutive Sweet 16 and will play 80 miles east in next weekend’s regional in Lexington, Kentucky.
Hines-Allen and Durr made sure of that right away by combining for 26 points on 12-of-14 shooting in the first half after the duo totaled just 13 points in a first-round rout of Boise State. Hines-Allen earned her 16th double-double this season.
Allazia Blockton had a career-high 34 points and Erika Davenport 11 for Marquette (24-10).
No. 2 Baylor 80, No. 7 Michigan 58
WACO, Texas — Lauren Cox had 18 points with 16 rebounds, and Baylor is going to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 10th year in a row after a win over Michigan.
The Big 12 champion Lady Bears (33-1) finally put Michigan away by scoring 13 consecutive points in the third quarter. They led 57-41 on a driving layup by Kalani Brown that capped the 4 1/2-minute spurt.
Baylor, the No. 2 seed, takes a 30-game winning streak into its Lexington Regional semifinal game next Friday against Oregon State, which beat the Lady Bears in the Elite Eight two years ago.
Hallie Thome had 22 points, her fourth straight 20-point game for Michigan (23-10). Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan’s career scoring leader, had 18 points on six 3-pointers.
No. 1 Notre Dame 98, No. 9 Villanova 72
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With top-seed Notre Dame struggling to a halftime tie against Villanova on Sunday in a second-round women’s NCAA Tournament game, a visibly angry Muffet McGraw had seen enough.
When the Irish returned from the locker room, enter Kathryn Westbeld, who sat out the first half with a left ankle sprain, and the Irish found their way to the regional semifinals for the ninth straight season with a 98-72 victory over pesky Villanova.
Jessica Shepard had her fourth straight double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead Notre Dame. Arike Ogunbowale and Jackie Young had 24 points each and Marina Mabrey added 15 for the Irish (31-3), who held the Wildcats to just 27 second-half points in winning their 25th straight game at Purcell Pavilion.
Jannah Tucker led Villanova with 19 points, Kelly Jekot added 16 and Adrianna Hahn had 11 for Villanova.
No. 2 Oregon 101,
No. 10 Minnesota 73
EUGENE, Ore. — Sabrina Ionescu had 29 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Oregon advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over Minnesota.
It was the 11th straight victory for the Ducks, who are headed to the round of 16 for the second straight season. Last year they went to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Ionescu was just short of her second straight and 11th career triple-double. A sophomore, Ionescu holds the all-time NCAA record for triple doubles.
Fellow sophomore Ruthy Hebard finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Ducks, who led by as many as 34 points. Ionescu went to the bench with 8:31 left in the game and Oregon up by 30.
With her fourth assist of the game, Ionescu broke the Pac-12 single season record of 278, set by Arizona’s Brenda Pantoja in the 1995-96 season.
Carlie Wagner led the Golden Gophers with 20 points. Oregon’s 101 points were the most Minnesota had given up all year.
No. 4 Texas A&M 80, No. 5 DePaul 79
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Freshman Chennedy Carter hit a 3 with 3.2 seconds left, capping a 37-point performance, to help Texas A&M rally from a 17-point second-half deficit and beat DePaul.
Carter had 32 of her points after halftime and the fourth-seeded Aggies pulled off another stunning second half comeback for the second consecutive year. It was the largest comeback ever in the second round of the tournament and the fourth largest ever.
DePaul was led by Tanita Allen, who had 19 points and Mart’e Grays added 14.
KANSAS CITY REGION
No. 4 N.C. State 74, No. 5 Maryland 60
RALEIGH, N.C. — Kiara Leslie had 21 points and 11 rebounds against her former team, and North Carolina State beat Maryland.
Leslie, who spent three seasons at Maryland before graduating and transferring to N.C. State, finished one point shy of a career high.
Kalia Ealey and Chelsea Nelson added 12 points apiece while Akela Maize scored 11 to help the fourth-seeded Wolfpack (26-8) earn their first Sweet 16 appearance since the late Kay Yow led an inspirational run in 2007.
Brianna Fraser had 17 points for the fifth-seeded Terrapins (26-8), who were held to 37 percent shooting.
No. 2 South Carolina 66, No. 10 Virginia 56
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A’ja Wilson had 25 points and 11 rebounds in her last-ever college home game to lead South Carolina to its fifth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 with a victory over Virginia.
Wilson, the three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year, posted her 23rd double-double of the season and 53rd of her career for the Gamecocks (28-6).
Toussaint and J’Kyra Brown had 16 points each to lead Virginia.