No. 10 Tennessee 74, Oklahoma 59

After guiding her team into the second week of the NCAA

tournament despite four season-ending injuries, Oklahoma’s Sherri

Coale was in disbelief when her starting point guard took a hard

fall and was too woozy to walk to the sideline on her own.

A season of perseverance by the Sooners finally came to an end

Sunday night with a 74-59 loss to Tennessee in the Oklahoma City

regional semifinals, with floor leader Morgan Hook unable to play

the final 31 minutes.

”That was one of those where you’re like, `Really? Really?

Seriously?’ After everything, now we’re going to drop another one

right here in the Sweet 16?” Coale said.

Oklahoma (24-11) had already given up eight straight points in

what would become a 20-3 run, and never could recover after

that.

Second-seeded Tennessee moved to 26-5 in regional semifinals and

advanced to face either top-ranked Baylor or No. 5 seed Louisville

on Tuesday night for a spot in the Final Four.

Kamiko Williams scored 15 points to lead the Lady Vols and also

led the defense that limited Oklahoma star Aaryn Ellenberg’s

impact.

”Even though we didn’t win the game and the season is over, I

could not be more proud of a group of kids,” Coale said. ”These

guys have done amazing things this season against really

unbelievable odds.”

Sharane Campbell scored 22 points and Joanna McFarland had 14

while matching her career best with 16 rebounds, set in an upset of

third-seeded UCLA in the previous round.

The Sooners were already down by 11 when Hook was tripped up by

Meighan Simmons and hit her head on the way down. She was helped to

the bench by a trainer and sat out the rest of the game with

concussion-like symptoms.

Oklahoma was already down to eight scholarship players after a

series of four season-ending injuries, including team captain

Whitney Hand’s knee surgery. Two volleyball players were brought in

at midseason for practice help.

There simply wasn’t enough firepower to keep up with the deeper

SEC regular-season champs, who got 13 points from Cierre Burdick

and 12 apiece from Izzy Harrison and Taber Spani while holding the

Sooners to 31 percent shooting.

”You’ve got to find a way. That’s the only answer,” Campbell

said. ”You can’t panic.”

Oklahoma made just 5 of 29 from 3-point range and got just six

points from reserves, compared to 30 for the Lady Vols.

The Lady Vols dissected Oklahoma’s defense early on, getting

easy baskets right under the hoop and putting together a 20-3 run

to take control while keeping the Sooners’ hometown crowd from

getting involved.

Williams hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to get the run

going, and her second layup in the stretch pushed Tennessee’s

advantage to 36-16 with 4:54 to go before the half.

In the first half, Williams had 13 points, three assists and two

steals while playing the lead role in holding Ellenberg to a

1-for-11 shooting start that didn’t get much better after

halftime.

”It’s not a secret. I think Kamiko Williams is an extremely

talented young lady,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. ”When

she puts it all together and she gets a great mindset, she can do

just about anything.”

The Lady Vols have lost in the regional finals the past two

seasons and haven’t made it to the Final Four since winning the

national title in 2008. Tennessee also went through an Oklahoma

City regional on its way to the championship that season, with

Candace Parker leading the way.

Ellenberg missed 14 of her first 16 shots, including her first

seven 3-point attempts. She made a couple of baskets late to finish

with 13 points, but had nowhere near the same impact as she did

while averaging 24.5 points in the first two rounds of the

tournament.

Even when the Sooners were able to force eight straight misses

to start the second half, they couldn’t dent Tennessee’s lead.

Nicole Griffin and Ellenberg each had baskets during the Lady

Vols’ 4 1/2-minute dry spell, but that only got the deficit down to

44-31 before three straight makes pushed it right back up to

19.

The Sooners started the second half 3 for 21 from the field,

with Tennessee’s lead growing to 63-35. Coale praised her team for

showing the passion and spirit that define the program and cutting

into the lead after that.

”This team has done incredible things this year in the face of

situations where most people would just succumb and say, `All

right, let’s get them next time,”’ Coale said. ”Not these

guys.”