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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) Mercedes Russell scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Tennessee continued its surprising run in the women's NCAA Tournament with a 78-62 victory over Ohio State in a Sioux Falls Regional semifinal Friday night.
The Lady Vols (22-13), who upset No. 2 seed Arizona State last Sunday, beat the No. 3 Buckeyes (26-8) to reach the Elite Eight for the fifth time in six years. They'll play Sunday against No. 4 Syracuse, which stunned top-seeded South Carolina 80-72 in the first semifinal.
Russell and fellow post player Bashaara Graves combined to make their first 13 shots from the field before Russell missed a tough one in the middle of the third quarter. The two combined for 22 of the Lady Vols' first 28 points as they got out to a 43-35 halftime lead.
Russell finished 12 for 16 from the field, and Graves, who was 6 for 9, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Te'a Cooper added 16 points and Jaime Nared had 11 rebounds.
Tennessee outrebounded the Buckeyes 53-26 and outscored them 50-22 in the paint.
Tennessee led by as many as 22 points against a short-handed Ohio State team that stuck with a six-player rotation despite having two players with four fouls. The Buckeyes came in without starting guard Cait Craft, who broke her left hand in practice Tuesday, and with Alston still not 100 percent because of a sprained right wrist.
Mitchell, who set an Ohio State NCAA Tournament record with 45 points in Sunday's win over West Virginia and had gone over 40 in three of her previous five games, never found any rhythm. She made only five of 15 shots, including shooting 2 of 9 from 3-point range.
Tennessee's game plan was to work the ball inside against the smaller Buckeyes and avoid launching 3-pointers. The Lady Vols, one of the nation's worst-shooting teams from beyond the arc, attempted only four 3-pointers through three quarters and made two of them.
Ohio State, one of the nation's top-scoring teams at 86.8 points a game, were held 24 under their average. They shot just 32.8 percent.
The Lady Vols' surge in the tournament comes after the worst regular season in program history. Tennessee started the season ranked No. 4 in the country and ended up in seventh place in the SEC.
Now the Lady Vols are in a regional final for the 28th time.
Tennessee had to come back from a 17-point deficit in the last seven minutes to beat Gonzaga in the regional semifinals last year. Not as much sweat was involved this time.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols have won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Ohio State. ... No. 7 seeds are now 6-8 all-time in regional semifinals.
Ohio State: Mitchell came in averaging 30.3 points in four career NCAA Tournament games. ... The Buckeyes committed only seven turnovers while forcing Tennessee into 18.
Ohio State Individual Notes
- Kelsey Mitchell scored 20 points and finishes the season with 889 points, breaking her own single-season school record of 873 points from last season.
- Ameryst Alston finished with a team-high 21 points and ends her career 2,165 points which is fourth in school history.
- Makayla Waterman scored 10 points marking her second game this season with double-digit points.
Ohio State Team Notes
- The Buckeyes shot 32.8 percent from the floor which was their second-worst shooing game of the season behind the 32.5 percent night in the season-opener at South Carolina.
- OSU committed seven turnovers which was its seventh game this season with single-digit turnovers
- Tennessee out-rebounded OSU 53-26. The -27 margin was the worst of the year for the Buckeyes.
- Ohio State has made a three-pointer in 111-straight games dating back to 2013
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