Yea, so, apparently the Tennessee Volunteers like to keep it close when it comes to playing in the NCAA Tournament.
First, it was Admiral Schofield that bailed the team out against the Colgate Raiders, but this time it was Grant Williams’ turn to do the same.
The two-time SEC Player of the Year showed exactly why he wears the crown, finishing with a team-high 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting. He came up with clutch play after clutch play and was the reason the Vols were able to make it past the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Schofield picked up right where he left off against the Raiders, draining his first two shots from the outside to give the Vols an early 6-2 lead.
Good defense and excellent perimeter shooting helped the Vols go on a 9-2 run, while building a 20-9 lead with 14:28 left in the first half. The Vols were 8 of 12 from the floor, including 3 of 4 from 3, while the Hawkeyes were just 4 of 11 overall (1 for 3).
But it wasn’t just the outside shooting, Tennessee also held a 10-2 advantage over Iowa in the paint. Everything was working early and often.
Grant Williams began to make plays soon after, forcing two turnovers and draining a turnaround jumper to push Tennessee’s lead to 26-14. The Hawkeyes already had four turnovers in the first 6:30 of play, compared to none from the Vols.
A scary moment came when Iowa’s Luka Garza smacked his head on the court as he fell forward and had to go to the bench. It would be a major loss for Iowa if he were unable to return to the game.
Garza eventually returned to the game a few minutes later, but the Vols had jumped out to a 32-14 lead by then. Even when he returned, things continued to decline for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa hadn’t made a single bucket in over 4:45 of play and had missed six of the last seven shots. The craziest stat of all was the fact that the Hawkeyes had made six baskets, but had also committed six turnovers with 7:56 left in the first half.
Tennessee’s lead grew to 34-14 before an Isaiah Moss trey finally ended Iowa’s offensive misery.
But the Vols - especially Schofield - continued to pile it on. He made play after play on both sides of the ball and before the Hawkeyes could blink, they were down 44-19 with 4:14 left in the first half.
Schofield had 17 points while Iowa had 19 as a team at this juncture in game.
Iowa finally found some offense, going on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 44-25, but Williams continued to dominate down low on defense, erasing any chance for the Hawkeyes pull within less than 20 points.
Tennessee would head into the locker room with a 49-28 lead. The Vols finished the first half shooting 51.4 percent overall and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. But the most important thing was that they were playing their game, evidenced by nine first half assists.
Schofield led the way with 17 points and five rebounds. He was 6 of 9, including 3 of 4 from long distance.
Iowa shot just 9 of 28 from the floor in the first half and had seven turnovers. Tennessee’s defense smothered the inside presence of Garza and Tyler Cook. Both players combined for just four points on 2 of 10 shooting.
The recipe for the rest of the game was simple: stay focused and continue to play defense.
Well, Grant Williams picked up his third foul of the game within the first minute of the second half and Iowa scored four quick points to cut the lead to 49-32. A double foul on John Fulkerson and Bohannon brought things to a head for the Vols as both teams were looking to make their mark in the second half.
Tennessee began to make its mark after an offensive possession saw the team net four offensive rebounds before Iowa could get the ball back, but turnovers began to creep back up. The Vols already had three in the first 4:00 of play, making it nine total so far.
The Hawkeyes were able to go on an 11-2 run as the Vols continued to settle for outside shots and jumpers without Williams on the floor. There was still plenty of time for Iowa to come back from the 51-37 deficit with 15:18 remaining in the game.
And sure enough, the Hawkeyes began to make a comeback. The Vols were able to hit a couple of free throws, but Iowa was able to cut the lead to nine, 53-44 with a little over 13:00 left.
Schofield came through with his first points of the second half to put the Vols back up, 55-44, but Iowa continued to push.
Grant Williams pushed back, though. He finally came in with around 12:00 left to go, but helped Tennessee get back out to a 59-46 lead with 10:27 left in the game.
It wasn’t enough, however, because the Vols began to get sloppy on offense, yet again. Consecutive turnovers, an offensive rebound off a free throw, and a Bohannon trey allowed Iowa to cut the lead all the way down to 61-56 with 7:55 remaining.
Another turnover led to a Schofield foul, which led to two more Iowa points and Schofield’s benching. The Vols now led 61-58 and were officially on life support.
Tennessee was able to keep the Hawkeyes at arms’ length until Isaiah Moss drained a fade-away trey in the corner with the shot clock expiring to cut the lead to 65-64 and mark the Hawkeyes’ official rise from the dead.
With 3:55 left in the game, just about everything was going in the Hawkeyes’ favor and it would take arguably UT’s biggest gut-check of the season if they wanted to turn this around.
The first failed test came after Williams missed the first of a 1-and-1 opportunity that kept the game at 65-64. Fortunately, Iowa turned it over on the next possession and missed the chance to take the lead.
Two Lamonte Turner free throws put the Vols up 67-64 with 2:45 to go, but was called for an extremely questionable foul on Bohannon as he attempted a 3 on the next possession. Bohannon hit all three and the game was officially tied, 67-67 with 2:30 left in the game.
Turner came through with a huge 3 of his own to put Tennessee back in the lead, 70-67. The Vols were able to get a stop on the other end thanks to a huge block by Williams. Despite a big miss by Turner on the next offensive possession, the Vols were able to get a stop on defense and force Iowa to send Jordan Bowden to the line.
Bowden hit one of his two free throws to give the Vols a 71-67 lead with :55 to go in the game, but Moss drove it down to the other end for an easy layup to cut the lead to 71-69 with :51 remaining.
Schofield took a very questionable 3 with plenty of time left on the shot clock and watched the ball bounce out of the rim and into the hands of Iowa. A foul on Joe Wieskamp allowed the freshman to make both free throws and tie the game, 71-71 with 14.6 left in the game.
Tennessee used one of its two final timeouts to draw up what would hopefully be the game-winning play. All eyes were on Grant Williams, but would he in fact be the one to get the ball?
He wouldn’t even get a chance to touch the ball as Bone attempted the game-winner from the outside, but it didn’t fall and now it would take at least five minutes of overtime to decide the game.
With the Vols in foul trouble, there was no doubt that this was going to be a battle.
The period started off with a foul on Williams as he drove to the basket. He made both free throws to put the Vols up, 73-31.
Great defense by Tennessee led to a Hawkeye turnover on the next possession. The Vols were able to take advantage after Williams found Bone open for a 3 to put the Vols up, 76-71.
Tennessee made another stop and this time it was Williams who came through with a jumper to put the Vols on a 7-0 run. The Hawkeyes trailed, 78-71 with 2:30 in the game and were forced to call a timeout in order to get their heads on straight.
The timeout worked to the extent that it helped the Hawkeyes reach the charity stripe for their first points of the extra period, but they had no answer for Williams on the other end as he drained another jumper to push the lead back to 80-73.
Bohannon wouldn’t let his team die, though. As soon as the Hawkeyes received the ball, he immediately drove it in for another layup to make it an 80-75 game. Williams couldn’t hit his next attempt, but came up with a key strip on Cook to keep the lead at five.
But the Vols couldn’t take advantage as Turner lost control as he went up for a layup. Cook missed the ensuing layup, but was fouled in the process and had a chance to make it a one-score game at the line.
Cook missed both free throws, but a lane violation on Bone allowed Cook another opportunity to make the second free throw. Fortunately, he missed his third try and things were finally beginning to look up for Tennessee.
Kyle Alexander sunk one of his two free throws and the Vols lead, 81-75. Bohannon was able to drive down for another layup to cut the lead to 81-77 with :11 left to go.
The obligatory foul was then called on Bone and he nailed both free throws to push the lead to 83-77. Bohannon missed his attempt to put Iowa back in it and that was the final nail in the coffin for the Hawkeyes.
The Vols would win yet another gritty tournament game, 83-77. They will now face off against the third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet 16. Tip-off is TBD.