After spending much of the night guarding the national Player of the Year, Ohio State's brilliant Evan Turner, Prince was pooped. He put his hands on his head, then bent over and put them on his knees. Tennessee, nursing a two-point lead, would have to go this offensive possession 4-on-5.
"I said on offense, 'They'll take care of it; I'll save it all for defense,'" Prince said. "That's all I did. I knew that last two minutes I was going to make them work no matter what. I know nobody wanted it more than I did."
Wanted it. Got it. After summoning the energy to play defense one last time.
At the 59th second of the 39th minute of a tense Sweet 16 battle, he rose up on rubbery legs to stuff the potential tying 3-pointer as it left Turner's right hand.
Ballgame. Tennessee wins, 76-73, in a karmic payback for three years ago.
. . . .
Turner finished with 31 points, 21 of them after halftime. The rest of the Buckeyes scored 10 second-half points. Turner was 7-of-15 from the field after intermission. The rest of the Buckeyes were 3-of-16. No other Ohio State player scored a second-half point until the 9:17 mark, and no other Ohio State player made a field goal until the 7:37 mark.
Ohio State has one of the best players in the country in Evan Turner. Tennessee has what seems like an endless supply of nasty, stingy defenders.
No secret who's going to win that battle.
Brian Williams scored the go-ahead basket on a tip-in with 32 seconds left, and J.P. Prince was relentless on Turner, blocking a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer Friday night to lead Tennessee past Ohio State 76-73 and into the NCAA tournament's round of eight for the first time.
Thursday night's early session gave us two things: A down-to-the-wire game between a No. 2 and a No. 6 seed and a dominating defensive performance that sent a plucky, beloved underdog home.
Sound familiar? It should. We just saw the exact same thing happen.
There were a few differences, though. For one, tonight's No. 2 seed didn't win its thriller. Instead, Ohio State -- considered by many to be the main non-Kentucky favorite left in the tournament -- suffered its first loss in 10 games, falling to Tennessee 76-73 in the Sweet 16. The Volunteers' win sends Tennessee to the Elite Eight for the first time in its school's history. The loss sends the Buckeyes, and U.S. Basketball Writers Association national player of the year Evan Turner, back to Columbus.
The irony of what was likely Evan Turner's final on-court moment as a collegian was clear to anyone who watched Tennessee claw its way past Ohio State, 76-73, here Friday night to earn its first-ever berth in the Elite Eight.
As the buzzer blared and joyous Volunteers whooped and pranced just feet away, a seated Turner blew off a helping hand from teammate Jon Diebler, scrambled to his feet and walked diagonally -- and directly -- off the court. The image of Turner, alone, with little support, sums up how Tennessee triumphed in the second half.
A last second three-point attempt by Turner -- who has that kind of last-second magic, as evidenced by the Big Ten tournament -- didn't see the pixie dust fall for him today, and the court was swarmed quickly by fans in orange, whom Chism and Prince celebrated with and whom Pearl sweat upon.
You don't think Evan Turner was laboring in the final minutes? Sporting News' player of the year scored 21 second-half points, but with the game on the line—and his teammates not working hard enough to get open—Turner lacked the giddy-up to get off a quality shot from in the lane or beyond the arc.