Excitement. Nervousness. Focused. Scared. READY. Just a few answers I received from the girls when asked “What are you feeling now?” an hour before tipoff. The Sweet 16 is full of exceptional teams all looking to advance to the next round, but with emotions running high whose team will come to play and who is going home empty-handed?
In my head I am thinking OU has such talent but are missing two of their best starters, so how is this going to go. On the other hand, Tennessee has also had injuries this year and has a young team to put such leadership responsibilities on. No idea what is going to happen but I was ready to see.
Tipoff was almost a slap in the face when Tennessee exploded the second the clock started while OU seemed almost dumb founded to it all. Finally a 3-pointer by Joanna McFarland quieted the roaring Tennessee crowd and updated the score to 4-3. The Arena was insanely hostile with fans shouting their worse comments out at coaches and officials. At this point Tennessee jumped ahead to 9-5 having momentum completely on their side. Taber and Kamiko lead this Tennessee team down the court every time with the leadership they need.
After a quick timeout by coach Coale, OU seemed to get their act together. 15:44 on the clock and the girls finally started sinking some shots tying the game up 9-9. But that didn’t stop Tennessee from pounding the ball down low and dominating all the defense OU could dish out. It wasn’t that OU wasn’t putting up shots, they were shooting all they could but after 3 blocked shots, Tennessee plunged ahead again. Turnovers were killing this anxious OU team.
To make matters worse, a physical play down court led to point guard Morgan Hook going down. No one could figure out if she had hurt her ankle or had a concussion due to her head slamming into a kneecap. Either way, Hook was taken out of the game and into the locker room.
Tennessee just kept forcing turnovers but OU definitely drew fouls better. Three more missed shots from OU and Tennessee took full advantage. The Lady Volunteers showcased a great pressure defense but in all honesty, OU was beating themselves more than anything. This game was getting hard to watch no matter who you were rooting for.
OU shot a weak 28.02% in the first half while Tennessee dominated with a 52.9%. Somethings got to change fast if OU wanted to stay in this game.
An explosive start in the second half put OU right back in it. Coach Coale must have given them one hell of a pep talk in the locker room but they still had a ways to go to win. 44-31 Tennessee up, still. OU started settling in with a few easy made shots but Tennessee never stopped making baskets on their end as well, not giving OU a chance to even the score. Blocks have really been big in this game and aggression is definitely in the building. The fouls were out of control here and the officials might be letting too much slide. Rebounding also had been killing both teams but especially OU. McFarland can not get a good spot to take stance and dig in.
At this point, OU’s shots were starting to go in more and more but with the clock running down they knew they were in trouble. 9:30 left and the score 59-34. Both Jasmine Hartman and Sharane Campbell fought like crazy to sink baskets but the clock was just playing against them at this point.
Once that final buzzer hit, the score said it all. 74-59 Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee will go on to play in the next round against either Baylor or Louisville Tuesday. Congratulations to the Volunteers and good luck in the next round.