Vols fall to No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago in second round

Head Coach Rick Barnes and the No. 3 seed Volunteers’ season ended with a 63-62 loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Saturday night. Tennessee failed to advance to the Sweet 16 despite an and-one from forward Grant Williams, which put the Vols up one point with 20 seconds remaining. Barnes is now 22-23 in NCAA Tournament games in his over 40 years as a head coach.

Ramblers guard Clayton Custer got a friendly roll on a tough jump shot with four seconds left to give Loyola-Chicago a 63-62 lead with four second remaining. Tennessee sophomore guard Jordan Bone put up on off-balance jumper at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to go.

“It’s always a tough way to lose a basketball game with the buzzer beaters,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of our guys, they kept fighting today and finding a way to stay in it.”

The early game looked good for the orange-and-white, as they shot off to a 15-6 run after nearly five minutes of play in the first half. Forward Admiral Schofield had 11 of the Vols 15 points in the run. However, the Ramblers responded with a 23-10 run of their own and went up 29-25 at the halfway point.

“They started making shots,” Schofield said.

Grant Williams added, “We were playing hard, but we really weren’t playing smart.”

At the half, the Volunteers stood at just 39 percent shooting from the field and made just 4-of-13 shots from beyond-the-arc. Meanwhile, Loyola-Chicago filled the bucket with nearly 50 percent shooting after 20 minutes of play. Tennessee made just four of its last 18 shots to end the first half.

The Volunteers fell behind 10 points with four minutes remaining in the contest but cut the deficit down to just two points after a 3-pointer from guard Lamonte Turner. Tennessee finished the monumental comeback with a clutch and-one from Williams to put the Vols up one point.

However, Custer and the Ramblers continued their Cinderella story with a game-winning jumper with 3.6 second remaining in the game. Custer and senior forward Aundre Jackson led Loyola-Chicago with a combined 26 points and six rebounds in the win. The Volunteers had five players with over 10 points in the loss, including a team-high 14 points from Schofield.

“We worked really hard and we brought some excitement around the basketball program again,” Schofield said. “It doesn’t define who we are… We still have some guys that are returning.”

Overall, the Ramblers hit 50 percent of their shots and outrebounded Tennessee by a 27-24 margin on Saturday. The Missouri Valley champions will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985, which is the last time they made the NCAA Tournament.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little

 

Lady Vols steamroll Liberty, advance to second round

The No. 3 seed Lady Vols played a monumental second half to trounce 14th-seeded Liberty (24-10) by a score of 100-60 on Friday in Thompson-Boling Arena. Seven Tennessee players logged over 10 points in the win, the most the team tallied all season since its win over Troy three months ago. Freshman guard Rennia Davis led the Volunteers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee seemingly couldn’t miss, as they shot an incredible 62 percent from the field and shot 4-of-12 from beyond-the-arc. The Lady Vols dominated the glass, as they outrebounded the Lady Flames by a 45-29 margin. The last time Liberty gave up 100 points was to Tennessee in 1998 in the same round of the NCAA Tournament.

Defense became the name of the game early for Tennessee, as they forced five turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game. However, the Lady Volunteers struggled to get things going on the offensive end until the end of the first quarter. A jumper from junior Cheridene Green started a 11-0 run for Tennessee as the Vols went up 20-10 after 10 minutes played.

Liberty cut down the score to just six points halfway through the second quarter, but Green once again started a run for Tennessee. Tennessee led 36-28 at the half. The Lady Vols thrived in the third quarter, as they outscored Liberty 38-20 and finished the second half shooting 24-of-30 from the field.

“We knew we had to pick it up in the second half and be more aggressive and our press definitely helped,” Vols senior forward Jaime Nared said. “It was really just about getting our tempo going and making buckets. That is something we had to adjust, and we did a great job in the second half.”

Tennessee went up 74-48 after three quarters of play. Meme Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter. The Lady Vols defense held the Big South Conference Player of the Year, Lela Sellers, to just 13 points with 5-of-11 shooting in the game. The 64 second-half points from Tennessee is the ninth-most in program history.

“We handled it fairly well first half. The second half, the turnovers turned into touchdowns,” Lady Flames Head Coach Carey Green said. “They only missed six shots in the second half, and part of that is turning the ball over and they were getting run outs and layups off that.”

The nearly 62 percent shooting from the field from the Vols is the best in NCAA Tournament history and is the most from the Lady Vols since 1987.

“I thought we checked off all of those things we wanted to focus on. I’m really proud of our young ladies,” Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick said. “They played hard and we got a lot of people playing time. They did an outstanding job.”

Warlick and the Volunteers get back into action against No. 13 Oregon State on Sunday in Knoxville. Tennessee is 2-0 against the Beavers in the Warlick era, and 4-0 all-time against Oregon State.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little

 

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