The Lady Vols (25-8) fell to Oregon State (25-7), 66-59, in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The defeat was Tennessee’s first home loss in NCAA tournament history, ending a winning streak of 57 games that began in 1982.
“You come here wanting to win championships and the expectations are extremely high,” Warlick said following the game. “Sometimes the things that are thrown at these kids are unfair. They come here wanting to learn and get better and just play the game. They get criticized quite a bit. These kids are tough and they’re resilient. I’m tough and resilient, but right now I’m hurting.”
Warlick was emotional after the season-ending loss and also taking up for her players.
“If you’re not a part of it, then you don’t understand it,” said Warlick. “This isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about young ladies getting better on and off the court and I don’t think they deserve half the crap thrown at them. So I’m upset but on the other side, I’m angry. But it’s just a basketball game and we’re going to get better and move on. That’s what we should do. If it means something to you, it should hurt.
“They’ve had to battle critics and everything all year long. I’ll take them, I don’t care if we lost, I’ll take them to battle anytime.”
In the loss to Oregon State, senior Mercedes Russell recorded her 46th double-double in her Tennessee career with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Russell surpassed Candace Parker (45) and trailing only Chamique Holdsclaw (57) for the most career double-doubles in UT history. Russell also concluded her UT career by being one of only six Lady Vols to record 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds, ranking third all-time in total rebounds (1,085), fifth in blocked shots (195), fifth in field goal percentage (.583), and sixth in rebound average (8.0 rbg.).
“It’s tough,” Russell said of the loss. “Obviously my last game as a college athlete, but I’m just blessed. Super thankful to our coaching staff and our university believing in us. It’s been a long ride and blessed I made this decision.”
Russell and fellow UT senior Jaime Nared are Oregon natives and both ended their collegiate careers against Oregon State.
“My teammates, my coaches, everybody has had an impact on my life,” Nared said post-game. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I learned a lot, definitely grew here (at Tennessee). It was a blessing to be able to play here under the tradition and this team.”