The last time the Tennessee and Ohio State women’s basketball teams met before Friday was in the 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 round. Fast forward five years to Friday night, and the two had a rematch in that very same rebound.
The No. 7 seed Lady Vols were not the favorite coming into the matchup with the Buckeyes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but they disregarded the predictions from analysts and dominated the third-seeded Buckeyes 78-62.
Tennessee came out of the gates strong and played with efficiency, taking quality shots from all areas of the court. Redshirt sophomore guard Diamond DeShields left the game for a stint with an injury, but would later return to contribute an all-around performance to the Lady Vols’ success.
Tennessee took control of the contest in the first half by breaking the press with ease and using its height in the paint to its advantage.
Tennessee’s post play was led by redshirt sophomore center Mercedes Russell who went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, taking over the OSU forwards. The Springfield, Oregon, native showed poise on the block with her effortless post moves and displayed her clean shooting form, putting the ball through the nylon throughout the evening.
Along with Russell’s success, senior forward Bashaara Graves also didn’t miss a shot in the first half, shooting 5-of-5.
OSU, on the other hand, was far from perfect, struggling to get an offensive flow in the first 20 minutes of play. Only shooting 25 percent as a team in the first quarter, the Buckeyes had to find a solution to their offense if they wanted to keep it close going into the locker room.
Missing their lead defender, senior guard Cait Craft, to a season-ending hand injury, the Buckeyes didn’t have a player to turn to shut down the Volunteers scorers.
Senior guard Ameryst Alston, who has been struggling to perform because of a wrist injury suffered in the Big Ten tournament, did not want her senior year to end earlier than it had to be, ignoring the wrist pain and completing some of the acrobatic shots that she regularly converted before the injury.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell took matters into her own hands for the rest of the first half, knocking down a slew of 3-pointers and finishing the half with 11 points.
Even though OSU trailed after the first half of play, the Buckeyes did not show the urgency that they needed to catch up to the Lady Vols. OSU ignored the offensive strategy that it typically followed throughout the year and lacked energy on defense, putting the Scarlet and Gray in even more of a hole as the second half of play got underway.
Tennessee’s offensive movement continued to be pristine and showed shades of coach Pat Summitt’s rosters back in the day. The Buckeyes simply had no answer for Tennessee and were unable to enforce their high-velocity pace that has been their go-to all season long.
Russell would go on to score a game high 25 points and grab 14 rebounds, while Graves finished with 14 points and nine boards.
Despite her injury, DeShields ended her night with 10 points and dished out seven assists, while grabbing five rebounds as well.
On the Scarlet and Gray side, Alston led the Buckeyes with 21 points, ending her collegiate career on a strong note. Mitchell would follow her with 20 points, though she shot just 5-of-15 from the field.
With the loss, the Buckeyes will board the plane back home to Columbus to begin their offseason, while the Lady Vols are set to continue to the Elite Eight to take on Syracuse and compete for a chance to make it to the Final Four.