In March of 2018, the Oregon State Women’s Basketball team hit the road for Knoxville, Tenn., to play in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. After defeating Western Kentucky in the first round, sixth-seed OSU was matched up with the third-seed Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
OSU had lost its two previous matchups with the Lady Vols, losing at Tennessee in December 2014 and at home in December 2015. Coming into the 2018 matchup, Tennessee was 57-0 in NCAA tournament home games before Rueck’s Beavers visited for the second round. The record dated back to 1982.
Tennessee jumped out to an early lead, holding a 10-point advantage with 2:17 remaining in a first quarter that saw senior center Marie Gulich get into early foul trouble.
After Gulich picked up two fouls in the first quarter, Rueck switched into a zone defense and found success.
“We knew we’d be using (the zone) at some point,” Rueck said of the defensive switch. “Their attack was too good, they were getting too deep of position and we needed to just give them a different look.”
As the game progressed, OSU’s zone proved to be vital in building out of the early deficit. Tennessee finished the game only shooting 33.8% from the field, including 22.7% from behind the three-point line.
With Tennessee struggling to make shots, OSU outscored the Lady Vols 15-7 in the second quarter and went into halftime down by just two points. The team broke out in the third quarter, once again outsourcing Tennessee and taking a lead into the final quarter.
The Beavers held onto that lead, defeating Tennessee 66-59.
“We knew there was going to be a lot of adversity today, coming into a storied venue against an incredible team,” head coach Scott Rueck said after the game. “But we knew it would be great competition.”
Four Beavers scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Mikayla Pivec who scored 18 points on 6-11 shooting, including 2-3 from three. Senior center Marie Gulich added 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and the team finished the game 19-23 from the free throw line.
With the win, Oregon State made it to their third-consecutive Sweet Sixteen and broke the Lady Vols’ home, undefeated, post-season record of 57 straight wins. The Beavers went on to win against Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen, and eventually lost to Louisville in the Elite Eight.