The No. 5 seed Volunteers were beaten 70-56 by No. 12 Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday. And the score reflects how not close the game was throughout. Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed by the Pac-12 tournament champions.
Oregon State (18-12) got into the tournament because it won three-straight games in the Pac-12 tournament and pushed its winning streak to four with the easy win. It’s the first victory for the Beavers in the NCAA tournament since 1982 when OSU advanced to the Elite Eight.
Tennessee was ice cold from the field. The Volunteers shot just 35 percent and made only five three-pointers as Oregon State was a prolific 10-of-21 from behind the arc. Forward Yves Pons — Tennessee’s best defender — was in foul trouble for most of the game and had just 1 rebound.
Tennessee faded down the stretch.
The Volunteers opened the season as the preseason pick to win the SEC and looked like deserved favorites after a 10-1 start.
Things went south from there. Tennessee (18-9) went 7-9 over its final 16 games of the season and didn’t win more than two games in a row for the last two months of its season.
Those struggles dropped the Vols to fourth in the SEC and Tennessee lost to SEC champion Alabama in the SEC tournament.
While Tennessee played solid defense all year the Volunteers struggled offensively, especially in conference play. Tennessee ranked 11th in points per game and field goal percentage and shot just 32 percent from behind the arc.
The Vols entered the NCAA tournament shorthanded too. John Fulkerson missed Friday’s game after he was elbowed in the face by Florida’s Omar Payne in the SEC tournament. Fulkerson averaged 9.5 points per game and was the team’s second-leading rebounder.
Oregon State’s Roman Silva took advantage of Fulkerson’s absence and Pons’ foul trouble. He entered the game averaging just 5.3 points per game but scored a career-high 16 points on 8-of-8 shooting.
Oregon State will face Purdue or North Texas
The Beavers were making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016 and in their second tournament game since a first-round loss in 1990.
It’s been a rough 30 years for Oregon State basketball, but the school appears to be on the right track under Wayne Tinkle. His teams have finished above .500 in five of his seven seasons and have won 18 games in each of the last three seasons.
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