OU’s magical run ended short of yet another storied step, as the No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers came into hostile territory and ousted the partisan crowd-boosted, sixth-seeded Sooners 74-59 in the Sweet 16 Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"I just want to congratulate a very, very good Tennessee team," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "I thought they played extremely well today."
So well, it was really complete and utter domination from start to finish.
The Vols asserted their will as the more physical team, more athletic team, more aggressive team, better shooting team and better defensive squad in the essentially uncontested battle throughout.
Forty three-point-three percent shooting for the Vols to 30.7 percent for the Sooners and 26 points off turnovers for Tennessee to just nine for OU demonstrates all that.
Tennessee led by as much as 20 already in the first half after racing out to an early 26-13 lead in the first 10 minutes and building it to 36-16.
"First half they really made a bunch of baskets early, kind of punched us right at the beginning," Coale said.
The Vols led 44-27 at intermission.
Some of that, though there might not have been too much resistance either way, was likely because OU lost point guard Morgan Hook nine minutes in with a concussion.
"She's kind of the floor leader, gets us in the offense and everything," said OU forward Joanna McFarland, who again posted a spirited effort. "We kind of missed that."
OU came out of the locker room in the first four minutes with basically its only fire in the contest, shutting out Tennessee until the first media timeout.
But it only managed four points of its own over the time period and because of that could only trim the deficit to 13.
It was a golden opportunity to get back in the game that the Sooners missed.
"You know, we had ourselves right there," Coale said. "Would love to know how the story might be different had we made a couple of those open shots early in the second half. We got stops. Crowd was behind us.
"We got exactly the looks that we wanted and they just didn't go in, two or three of them, all the way into the bottom of the basket and back out."
From there, Tennessee regained control and cruised to the finish, extending as much as a 28-point lead in the second half.
Like she has since OU became shorthanded earlier in the year, McFarland played big, netting yet another double double of 16 rebounds and 14 points.
But unlike the other night in Columbus when guard Aaryn Ellenberg could have hit water if she was 50 feet inland from sea—she scored a game-high 27 points against UCLA to send OU back home for another weekend—she couldn’t have hit water if she was on a boat.
Ellenberg slumped, missing shot after shot and struggling to as poor as 2-for-16 shooting at one point.
She eventually finished with double figures at 13, but only on 5-of-20 from the field.
"Well, I think I just rushed it a little bit," Ellenberg said. "I was a little excited about being out there and they just weren't falling. I tried to do as much as I could to adjust it but they just weren't."
Guard Sharane Campbell led all scorers with her 22, but none of that was enough.
That’s because four Vols scored in double figures, in a very balanced offensive attack, paced by guard Kamiko Williams’ 15.
Cierra Burdick, Isabelle Harrison and Taber Spani added 13, 12 and 12, respectively.
The Sooners, spearheaded by McFarland, actually won the rebounding battle 50-47, but they could just never get in any type of offensive flow or stop the Vols.
OU finishes the season 24-11, while Tennessee marches on to the Elite Eight for a Tuesday battle against the Baylor/Louisville winner.
The Sooners will only lose McFarland from their starting lineup next season. Everyone else returns.
"We're going to be great next year," McFarland said. "The league is going to be somewhere where they could win the league, I think. They're only losing one starter and they're going to get a lot of people back. They're going to be a force to be reckoned with next year. They're going to be really good."
As for now, it's time for the offseason.
Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.