SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Diamond DeShields did all she could to keep Tennessee close, but there was no stopping Alexis Peterson and her Syracuse teammates in their bid to make the Final Four for the first time.
DeShields had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Lady Vols' surprising NCAA tournament run ended with an 89-67 loss Sunday in the Sioux Falls Regional final.
The Lady Vols (22-14) entered the tournament having already suffered the most losses in a single season in the program's storied history, and their No. 7 seed was their lowest ever. They posted decisive tournament wins against Green Bay, Arizona State and Ohio State, but facing fourth-seeded Syracuse in the Elite Eight, the overachieving came to an end.
"As much as we want to be proud of how far we've come, based on the season we had, we could have gone farther," DeShields said. "We know that. I think that's what hurts the most. So our season got cut short, we all feel like. So we're not happy about that. Never happy about losing. We never will be.
"This is a program full of winners. Winning is what we do. That's always going to be the goal."
The fourth-seeded Orange (29-7) will play No. 7 seed Washington (26-10) in a national semifinal April 3 in Indianapolis.
"We did what we had to do," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "We knew we had to control the paint, and we did a good job of that. We knew we had to make 3s, and to be 14-for-30 behind the arc is really knocking down shots. That was the key to the game."
DeShields kept the Lady Vols in range, at least temporarily, scoring 11 points the first 6:42 of the third quarter and forcing Syracuse to call a timeout after hitting two straight 3-pointers to pull her team to 54-51. But Maggie Morrison's 3-pointer and a snaking layup by Corneilia Fondren pushed Syracuse's lead back to 63-53.
Jaime Nared added 14 points for Tennessee, which committed 21 turnovers against the Orange's pressure 2-3 zone defense. The Orange converted those turnovers into 25 points.
Tennessee's Mercedes Russell, who had a career-high 25 points against Ohio State on Friday and came into the game shooting 70 percent in her first three tournament games, was limited to just five shots and finished with seven points. The Lady Vols' other post, Bashaara Graves, was 3-for-8 for 11 points.
And the Lady Vols, who defeated third-seeded Ohio State 78-62 on Friday, had no answer for Peterson. She had 29 points after scoring 26 in the Orange's upset of top-seeded South Carolina, and she was named the regional's most outstanding player.
"Our defense just wasn't as crisp as it was against Ohio State," DeShields said. "We weren't talking as much. We weren't as connected. I think that allowed Alexis Peterson to get into a lot of the gaps, find her spots. It just wasn't our day. I mean, clearly it was theirs."
Tennessee was trying to reach its 19th Final Four and first under fourth-year coach Holly Warlick. The Lady Vols haven't made it to the national semifinals since 2008, the year they won their last of eight championships.
They were without starting guard Jordan Reynolds, who was out with a concussion after getting hit in the face against Ohio State. Te'a Cooper scored eight points in her first start since Feb. 25; she had scored 16 off the bench against Ohio State.
"I thought we missed Jordan's leadership," said Warlick, whose team topped Syracuse 57-50 Nov. 20 in Knoxville. "She's been in these situations before. All fairness to Te'a, she's not done this."
Peterson attacked the Lady Vols from the perimeter and with some snazzy moves to the basket, even though she had a sore hip. Peterson has scored 20 or more in each of the Orange's four tournament games.
"She's a special kid. She's competing. It's her time to shine," Warlick said. "She stepped up and made things happen. She ran her basketball team. She kind of put them on her back and said, 'We're not going to be defeated.'"