Tennessee cruises past Wright State, advances to Round of 32

No. 3 seed Tennessee dominated its opening round of the NCAA Tournament with a 73-47 win over 11th-seeded Wright State Thursday afternoon. The Volunteers will play Loyola-Chicago in the Round of 32 on Saturday.

The SEC’s Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner, led the Vols with 19 points and a career-high nine assists. The Volunteers looked confident after a shaky start. The Vols did not score on their first five attempts of the game, but they got it going after a 3-pointer from forward Admiral Schofield.

Schofield continued his productive run, finishing the day with a double-double in a 19-point, 12 rebound performance. After sitting out nearly seven minutes of Tennessee’s SEC Tournament Championship loss to Kentucky, Schofield came out of the gate firing and did not let up. A thunderous dunk from Schofield in the second half sealed the deal for the Vols.

Sophomore forward Grant Williams nearly missed a double-double, finishing the day with 14 points and nine rebounds. The Volunteers’ big man slammed an authoritative dunk in the first half, which woke up the Tennessee fans and teammates alike. Center Kyle Alexander also made two key blocks in the game that helped the Vols pull away and keep their momentum going.

The Vols forced the Raiders to shoot just 32 percent from the field and 19 percent from beyond-the-arc in the game. Meanwhile, the orange-and-white capitalized with 45 percent shooting from the field and five 3-pointers.

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes refuses to let his team overlook opponents.

“You’re saying can we out-talent clubs? No, we’ve never looked at that,” Barnes said. “One thing we’ve told our players, and we say it all the time, everybody can play. I do think hard work is a talent. I don’t think that’s a given.”

Williams later gave the key to his dominant rebounding against Wright State.

“Really, I’ve just been pursuing the ball more,” Williams said. “Normally I try and box guys out and make sure to keep them off the glass and allow other guys to get it because that’s just how I used to do it.”

Tennessee will take on No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago on Saturday, but the start time has not yet been released.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Vols draw No. 3 seed in NCAA Tournament

No. 13 ranked Tennessee (25-8) dropped the SEC Championship to Kentucky at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Vols found little time to dwell on the defeat as they looked ahead to Selection Sunday.

The Volunteers drew a No. 3 seed from the NCAA selection committee and will face the No. 14 seed Wright State Raiders (25-9) at 12:40 p.m. ET on TruTV. Tennessee will tip-off in Dallas in the South Region of the bracket.

This appearance marks the Vols’ first in the tournament since 2014. Meanwhile, the Raiders enter for their first appearance in 11 years. Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes knows his team played hard to get in the tournament all season long. However, he also knows not to take an appearance for granted.

“Hats off to our team. They believed they could do it, they did it,” Barnes said. “Now we are in the big event, you go one game at a time.”

The Selection Sunday anticipation came and went quickly for the orange-and-white. They were announced in the first region of the bracket. Barnes’ last two seasons in Knoxville proved everything but exciting around this time of year.

“(It’s) been a long time. I go back to that first year, guys came in and bought in to it and we knew we were shorthanded,” Barnes said. “Last year we were in a position, couldn’t finish it … This will be a new experience for them.”

This will be a new experience for not only Barnes’ squad, but Wright State Head Coach Scott Nagy. His team looks for its first ever win in the NCAA Tournament.

Preview of Wright State

Nagy and the Raiders won 25 games this season on their way to the Horizon League Championship. The matchup could be like looking in the mirror for Barnes – Nagy’s philosophy matches his own.

The Raiders pride themselves on defense and playing inside-out. Wright State finished its season hot, railing off four-straight wins and winning eight out of its last 10 games.

Nagy’s marquee season win came on the road at Georgia Tech, 85-81. Senior guards Grant Benzinger and Justin Mitchell lead the Raiders. The two combine for 25.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Freshman center Loudon Love brings a down-low presence for Wright State averaging 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Tennessee drops SEC Championship game to Kentucky

No. 13-ranked and second-seeded Tennessee fell to No. 4 seed Kentucky in their first SEC Championship appearance since 2009 by a score of 77–72. Forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield combined for 37 points and 19 rebounds in the loss at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Head coach John Calipari and the Wildcats notched their fourth straight conference on Sunday.

It was all Kentucky to start the game, as the Wildcats couldn’t miss and went on a 13–5 run to start the first half. Tennessee started out shooting just 4-of-20 from the field, while Kentucky began with 50 percent shooting from the field. Freshman phenoms Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox combined for 24 points to start the game.

“We started the game and dug ourselves a hole,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. “We weren’t playing the way we were capable of. Offensively, we weren’t making shots.”

However, Schofield put the Volunteers on his back with a whopping 17 first half points. The Vols rode a 15–3 run to end the first half to cut the game down to just a five-point deficit at halftime.

The rest of the team combined for just 14 points, as Tennessee went into the half trailing just 36–31 after 20 minutes of play. The Volunteers came back despite shooting just 28 percent from the field and making just 4-of-13 shots from beyond-the-arc.

Barnes and Tennessee came out of the half with a new lease on life, as Tennessee finally took over the lead at the 16:39 mark with a 3-pointer from Schofield. The Wildcats responded with a 14–2 run to set the Vols back once again by a score of 52–43 with over 12 minutes to play.

The Volunteers responded clutch 3-pointer from SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner and a jumper from Williams cut Kentucky’s lead down to just five points once again. A 14–3 run from Tennessee once again gave them a lead, after Turner drilled consecutive 3-pointers to give the Vols a 57–55 lead.

A huge blow was dealt to the orange-and-white after Wenyen Gabriel of the Wildcats landed on Schofield’s head, causing him to go back to the locker room. Still, The Volunteers kept it knotted up at 59–59 with six minutes remaining in the game despite Schofield’s absence. Shortly after, both teams entered the bonus with over five minutes left in the second half.

Schofield re-entered the game at the 4:20 mark, as Tennessee faced a 66–62 deficit with less than four minutes left in the game. Kentucky was dealt a huge blow themselves with 2:45 remaining, as the sharpshooting Gabriel fouled out.

Guard Jordan Bone banked in a ridiculous shot from beyond-the-arc to cut the Wildcats lead to just 68–67 with just over a minute remaining in the game. Gilgeous-Alexander responded with a clutch jumper to put Kentucky up three points and forcing the Vols to send the Wildcats to the free throw line.

Schofield tipped in a shot to bring Tennessee within three points once again, but it wasn’t enough as the Vols lost for the first time in six games.

“It’s hard to flush that, but we’ve got something big to look forward to,” said Schofield. “We wanted to go out and win this for our University, coaching staff, families and fans.”

The Volunteers will get back in action on Thursday as a №3 seed in the South Region in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee will take on №14 seed Wright State.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Vols thump Razorbacks, advance to SEC Championship

No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee beat sixth-seeded Arkansas in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament by a score of 84-66 on Saturday. The Vols lost the first meeting of the season 95-93 on Dec. 30th in Fayetteville. With a chance to play for an SEC Tournament Championship, Tennessee looked locked and loaded from the start.

The Volunteers got off to a strong start behind sophomore guard Jordan Bone. In the first half, Bone went 7-of-7 shooting, while hitting three 3-pointers. His strong first half performance helped the Tennessee take a 19-point lead in to the half. Bone finished the game with a team-high 19 points and four assists in the win.

I just think starting off the game we were really aggressive. It’s really just playing within the offense,” said Bone about his performance. “Shots were falling, and we were playing against a really good defensive team.”

Four other Vols ended the day in double- digit scoring along with Bone. Admiral Schofield scored 16 points while Grant Williams, James Daniel III and Kyle Alexander had 12 points apiece. Alexander also had seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the team, while Williams finished with five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Tennessee is currently on a six-game win streak and have won 13 out of its last 15 games. It seems that head coach Rick Barnes has his team clicking on all cylinders at the right time. The Volunteers have one final game before they find out their fate for the NCAA Tournament, and it comes against their rival to the North, Kentucky.

The Wildcats beat Alabama on Saturday 86-63 prior to Tennessee’s game against the Razorbacks. Tennessee beat Kentucky in the two previous meetings this season. With a championship on the line, the Vols can expect to get the best out of the young Wildcats team.

“They’re a totally different team than they were then. I’ve been watching them,” said Barnes on Kentucky. “His (John Calipari’s) teams always get better late in the year. It looks like they’ve really made a commitment to really play big, strong basketball inside.”

Tennessee has a chance to win their first SEC Tournament Championship since 1979 on Sunday. The Vols beat the Wildcats in their 1979 championship game, as they look to repeat history. Sunday’s game will be the first appearance for Tennessee in the tournament championship game since 2009.

“It’s championship season, fatigue does play a factor,” said Schofield. “But everyone is tired this time of year. The biggest thing is who wants it most.”

With their win over the Razorbacks, the Volunteers continued their perfect record in rematch games on the season. Tip off for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 2 seed Tennessee outlasts Mississippi state in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

Seventh-seeded Mississippi State’s (22-11, 9-9 SEC) surge came too late to upset No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee on Friday, falling 62-59 to the in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Defense kept Tennessee on its feet late in the game. The orange-and-white shot just 33 percent from the field in the win.

Rebounding made the difference for the Volunteers. Tennessee outrebounded the Bulldogs by an impressive 50-33 margin and snagged 22 offensive rebounds in the contest. The Volunteers’ 50 rebounds tied a season-high record. They tallied 22 second-chance points in the win.

“We know that our biggest Achilles heel all year has been rebounding,” Volunteers Head Coach Rick Barnes said. “We talked about it a lot, not so much offensively where we want to go get it but trying to do it on the defensive end.”

Sophomore guard and SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner led Tennessee with 15 points and eight rebounds. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were the only other Vols in double-digit points. They combined for 23 points and 19 rebounds. Williams, who was recently named SEC Player of the Year, notched his first double-double of the season Friday.

Tennessee controlled the lead for the majority of the game until guard Lamar Peters led Mississippi State on a 9-2 run. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to just 51-49 with over six minutes left. However, Turner turned up clutch again for the Vols, making three consecutive shots to hold off the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State failed to capitalize with under a minute left. Guard Xavier Stapleton missed an open attempt from beyond-the-arc that would have given the Bulldogs a lead. The next possession, Tennessee guard Jordan Bone was intentionally fouled and hit both free throws at the charity stripe to put the Vols up 62-59.

The Bulldogs found a chance to send the game into overtime at the final buzzer but were unable to get a shot off. Peters and junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon led Mississippi State with a combined 49 of the team’s 59 points on the loss.

Nick Weatherspoon, freshman guard and younger brother of Quinndary, suffered a scary injury and left the floor on a stretcher after Vols center Kyle Alexander collided with him underneath the rim. News released later Friday night confirmed Weatherspoon was conscious and fully operational at the hospital.

“You pray for then and you have a moment where you have to take a step back, but it’s still a game,” Williams said of Weatherspoon’s injury. “You still have to compete. That’s what you have to understand. You have to talk to your team and let them know we’ve got a 20-minute game left.”

The win boosted Tennessee’s streak to 6-0 against teams in rematch games this season. Barnes and the Volunteers get back in action against Arkansas in the Scottrade Center at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 13 Tennessee faces Mississippi State in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

After beating LSU, No.7 seed Mississippi State (22-10, 9-9 SEC) takes on second-seeded Tennessee SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The Volunteers secured a double-bye to start the tournament. The Vols take on the Bulldogs as their first tournament contest Friday at 7 p.m. ET. St. Louis’ Scottrade Center hosts the tournament for the first time in SEC Tournament history. The SEC Network and ESPN feature the matchups.

In the last meeting between the teams Feb. 27, the Vols edged out the Bulldogs in Starkville by a score of 76-54 in the Humphrey Coliseum. Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield led the team with his second consecutive 24-point game. He also added seven rebounds in the win. The Vols dominated Mississippi State on the boards by a 44-34 margin and forced the Bulldogs to shoot just 20 percent from beyond-the-arc.

Thursday night, Mississippi State squeaked out an 80-77 win over 10th-seeded LSU (17-14, 8-10 SEC). Sophomore guard Lamar Peters notched a season-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field in the win. Brothers Quinndary and Nick Weatherspoon combined for 30 points, as the Bulldogs shot a hot 58 percent from the field.

LSU outrebounded Mississippi State 31-28. The Bulldogs tallied 16 turnovers on the night, but nearly 60 percent shooting from the field and 10-of-17 shooting from 3-point range led them to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The Weatherspoon brothers (25 points per game) and junior forward Aric Holman all lead the team with over an average of over 10 points per game.

Head coach Rick Barnes and the Volunteers look for their fifth-straight win on Friday. Barnes is a career 6-1 against the Bulldogs. A win keeps Tennessee’s perfect record (5-0) when they play teams more than once this season.

The orange-and-white haven’t hit the floor since beating Georgia 66-61 to be named Co-SEC Champions nearly a week ago.

“We are ready to play,” sophomore forward Grant Williams said. “That’s how we are, when we have a stretch without a game, we want to play.”

Admiral Schofield added he would rather be playing instead of waiting through the double-bye.

The dominant Schofield and Williams duo combined for 45 points, as Tennessee earned the SEC Champions title for the first time in a decade. Playing clean basketball led the Vols to glory. They committed just four turnovers against Georgia despite being outrebounded.

Tennessee will play its first game since Barnes and two of his players earned postseason SEC awards. Barnes earned SEC Head Coach of the Year, while Williams earned SEC Player of the Year honors. Sophomore guard Lamonte Turner got in on the action after being nominated as SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year.

“I just want our guys to go out and do what we’ve done and build on what we’ve done,” Barnes said. “Your goal is to play three days in a row… I do think we’ve got to get going a little bit.”

The Vols seek a win to make it to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2014 under head coach Donnie Tyndall. If Tennessee wins, they will take on the winner of No. 6 seed Arkansas and third-seeded Florida Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics