After the Oklahoma Sooners suffered through a rash of injuries in the first month of the season, leaving them with eight healthy scholarship players, the margin for error became exceptionally small. For most of the season, and in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Sooners did everything they needed to win basketball games.
Sunday afternoon against Tennessee, it was as if nothing would go right for the Sooners.
Despite a very tough and energetic performance, the Sooners just didn't have enough, falling to the No. 2 seed Volunteers, 74-59.
The crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena was decidedly pro-Sooners, although after the first 10 minutes or so, the folks in crimson and cream didn't have a lot to cheer about, as Tennessee used a huge 25-5 run over a 10-minute stretch in the first half to blow the game open.
Oklahoma never recovered, but they never quit fighting, either, playing hard right up until the final buzzer sounded.
Sharane Campbell led the Sooners with 22 points while Joanna McFarland tallied another double-double in her final game in an OU jersey. McFarland was dominant on the boards, grabbing 16 rebounds and scoring 14 points. Aaryn Ellenberg scored 13 points, despite shooting just 5-of-21 from the field.
While the Sooners played hard, they simply couldn't get shots to fall, shooting 30.7 percent from the field for the game and hitting just 5-of-29 from 3-point range. The Sooners knew they had to have a big game from Ellenberg and knock down a lot of 3's, but neither happened.
Instead, Tennessee dominated the game, using its size and aggressive defense to turn 17 Oklahoma turnovers into 26 points. The most impressive part of the game for Tennessee was its balance. Leading scorer Meighan Simmons, who came in averaging almost 18 points per game, scored just five points on 1-of-15 shooting.
However, it didn't matter, as four Volunteers scored in double-figures, led by Kamiko Williams' 15 points. Cierra Burdick had 13 and Isabelle Harrison and Taber Spani each scored a dozen.
Both teams shot out of the gate, with a Simmons 3 putting Tennessee up 9-3 at the 17:30 mark. The Sooners responded to knot the score at 11 before the Volunteers ripped off their 25-5 run to go up 36-16 with 4:54 remaining in the half.
As if the Sooners hadn't experienced enough adversity this season, more struck at the 10:49 mark of the first half. Point guard Morgan Hook was fouled to the floor by Simmons and on the way to the ground, Hook knocked her head against the knee of a Tennessee player. Hook left the game with concussion-like symptoms and didn't return.
Tennessee controlled the paint, scoring almost half of their first half points in the paint on easy layups. Despite a rally from Campbell at the end of the half, Tennessee went into the locker room up 44-27.
The Sooners scored the first four points of the second half, while Tennessee missed its first nine shots. Unfortunately for OU, they began experiencing their own cold spell soon after cutting the lead to 13, and when the Volunteers finally woke up, OU had no answer.
Tennessee responded to OU's early burst with a 19-4 run to take a 63-35 lead with 7:21 remaining to seal the Sooners' fate.
The Sooners lose McFarland, Jasmine Hartman, Whitney Hand and Lyndsey Cloman, but will have the rest of the lineup back, including Maddie Manning and Kaylon Williams from injuries they sustained early in the season.
The clock may have run out on the Sooners' season this year, but the accomplishments of this season will live long past Sunday afternoon.