Jordan McRae led four scorers in double figures with 20 points and Jarnell Stokes added 18 points and 13 boards as No. 11 Tennessee overcame a horrendous start and a 12 point first half deficit to beat No. 11 Iowa in the final play-in game on Wednesday night, 78-65, in overtime.
The difference maker for the Vols was actually Josh Richardson, who finally sparked some life into Tennessee when he hit five straight shots in the second half. Richardson scored 13 of his 17 points in the final 15 minutes of regulation, a stretch when it looked like Iowa was getting ready to pull away. He also set up Antonio Barton for a three that gave the Vols the lead.
It was a huge win for head coach Cuonzo Martin, who has been under siege by Tennessee fans unhappy with the team’s performance. There was an online petition circulating to try and get Bruce Pearl hired again that accumulated 36,000 signatures. The angst of the good folks on Knoxville only grew worse when Pearl was hired by Auburn on Tuesday. Hopefully, this win can put some of that to rest.
Tennessee will advance to take on No. 6 UMass in the Round of 64, which is a game that the Vols can win. UMass has a ton of length and athleticism, but they don’t have the kind of bodies in the paint that Tennessee does. Contain star guard Chaz Williams, avoid turnovers and pound the ball into the paint and they’ll have a chance to play on Sunday.
Adam Woodbury led the way for Iowa with 16 points and eight boards as he hit Stokes with every post move that he had in his arsenal. Peter Jok added 10 points off the bench as well. Those two combined to shoot 12-for-16 from the floor. The rest of the Hawkeyes? They shot 28.6% from the field, which included a 3-for-15 night from Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa’s star guard. As a team, they missed their last eight shots and were outscored 14-1 in overtime, ending a season that saw Iowa go just 2-7 in games decided by five points or less and choke away a handful of big leads in marquee games.
Head coach Fran McCaffery got a solid dose of perspective on gameday, however. His son, Patrick, had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor in his neck. On the broadcast on TruTV, McCaffery said that the surgery was believed to be a success.