All toothpaste jokes aside, that was a close enough brush with defeat for the Tennessee Volunteers.
A little less than a year after the stunning loss to the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, the Vols knew nothing would come easy in this year’s tournament.
Boy, were they right.
After blowing a 16-point lead, Tennessee had to hang on as Jordan Burns and the Colgate Raiders did just about everything they could to upset the Vols in the round of 64.
The game started off perfectly for the Vols, as Admiral Schofield and Lamonte Turner combined to score the first nine points of the game to give UT an early 9-0 lead.
Triston Fairchild was able to break the 2:30 scoring drought for the Raiders and finally get them on the board. Tennessee was able to grab a quick bucket, but back-to-back 3s from Burns closed the gap to 11-8 just a few possessions later.
Jordan Bone responded with a sweet alley-oop to Jordan Bowden, but inefficient offense from the Vols allowed Colgate to continue to hang around.
The Raiders had gone on a 10-4 run since UT’s opening lead and now trailed just 13-10 with 13:38 left in the first half. Bowden continued to make plays, hitting a big 3 to put the Vols up six, but it wasn’t enough to silence his opponents, especially Burns.
Burns drained another one from long distance and had nine of the Raiders’ 13 points. He was 3 of 3 from beyond the arc, while the rest of the team was 1 of 9 from the field.
The Vols now led, 16-13 with 12:00 to go in the first half. Jack Ferguson came through with a 3 of his own after a Tennessee bucket to cut the lead to 20-18 and all of a sudden it looked as if Colgate had some major momentum.
A nice put-back by Grant Williams, a coast-to-coast layup from Bone and immediate steal and put-back from Turner gave Tennessee some breathing room and a 26-18 lead shortly after the Ferguson trey.
The Vols continued to force turnovers and play stout interior defense, which led to a 16-2 run and a Colgate scoring drought that lasted over 7:00 of play. Tennessee was able to build a 36-20 lead before a Raymond 3 with 2:15 left in the first half broke the run and cut the lead to 13 points.
Colgate was able to get back within 10 points, but the Vols were able to finish the first half with a 42-30 lead.
Tennessee finished the first half 18 of 36 from the floor, including 4 of 13 from outside. The Vols outrebounded the Raiders 17-13, but the real story was the eight turnovers they forced. Six of the eight turnovers were steals, as Tennessee’s busy hands helped limit Colgate’s scoring chances.
Turner and Bowden both led the team with 10 points each. They combined for 8 of 14 overall, including 4 of 9 from long distance.
Burns led the Raiders with 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting - all of his points were from 3-point shots. But the team finished the half 11 of 39 overall, shooting 6 of 12 from the outside.
If the Vols could just limit their own mistakes, the second half should come pretty easy.
Well, the Vols limited their mistakes early on, but the Raiders came out of halftime on fire from beyond the arc. Back-to-back makes put them on a 6-0 run to pull within eight points, 44-36, and another Burns 3 later on made it a two-possession game, 47-41.
Another 3 from Burns cut the lead to 48-44 with a little over 15:00 to play. He was now 6/7 from beyond the arc and the Vols officially had a problem on their hands.
They then had another problem after Grant Williams was called for his third foul of the game with 13:00 left in the game. It was a very ill-advised charge that helped Colgate make yet another 3 and close the lead, 48-47.
The 9-1 run officially had the Vols on their heels. And this was all without Colgate’s star player in Rapolas Ivanauskas, who had been on the bench for the entire second half due to an eye issue.
Was history about to repeat itself for a second straight season? Could the Vols really lose to another double-digit seed?
Another bad foul, this time a blocking call on Kyle Alexander allowed Tucker Richardson to make both free throws and put the Raiders up, 49-48.
A nice layup from John Fulkerson put the Vols back up, 50-49, but a deep 3 from Richardson put the Raiders right back in front, 52-50 with 11:30 left in the game.
But the Vols wouldn’t die easily, as Williams came through with a jumper to tie the game at 52. Bowden, silent for the first 10 minutes, finally nailed his first shot of the second half, then made a perfectly-timed steal and slammed it home to put the Vols up, 56-52 with 9:10 to go.
Tennessee maintained a two-score lead for a good bit until another Richardson 3 brought the Raiders back within two, 60-58. But Bone responded with a 3 of his own and Schofield joined in on the fun soon after, pushing Tennessee’s lead back to six, 66-60, with 3:36 left on the clock.
Bowden continued to make his presence felt, coming through a major block on Raymond that helped prevent a sure bucket and kept the score at 66-60, but Burns continued to make Tennessee’s life miserable as he made the layup off the inbound pass, any way.
The Vols finally received a chance to dish it inside to Williams and he was fouled almost instantly. Usually, he is a lock to make free throws in clutch time, but he could only make one and the Vols led just 67-62.
Burns drove inside for yet another layup to make it a one-score game, but Schofield came through with a corner 3 to push the lead back to two possessions, 70-64.
But he wasn’t done there.
After a huge Williams block on Burns, Schofield lined it up and drained another one from the corner to make it a 73-64 game with only :45 left on the clock.
It would prove to be the final nail in the coffin, as the Vols would go on to win, 77-70. They will face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday, March 24th. Tip-off is TBD.