Tennessee’s offense finally went cold, and Michigan sent the Vols home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 76-68 loss.
The unpredictability of the Volunteer offense that plagued Tennessee earlier in the year showed up again at the worst possible time. After hitting 14 of 24 3s against Longwood in the first round, the Vols hit just two of their 15 attempts from deep against the Wolverines.
Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan games combined to go 1-10 from behind the 3-point line, and Vescovi managed just five points in the game.
Without the deep ball falling, Tennessee’s offense was reliant on Kennedy Chandler getting to the hoop off high ball screens. And he did it often. Chandler scored 19 points on 9-19 shooting and added nine assists, seven of which came in the first half. Chandler joined James as Tennessee’s only two double-digit scorers.
The Vols took a five point lead into halftime but got outscored by 13 points in the game’s final 20 minutes.
UT was leading 60-54 after James hit one of two FTs with 8:27 left in the game, but Michigan went on a quick 6-0 run to tie up the game. The Vols allowed two consecutive second-chance, tip-in put backs by Michigan’s Terrance Williams inside a minute, the second of which tied the game back up at 62 with four minutes left. A 10-4 Michigan run in the game’s next two-ish minutes sealed the Volunteers’ fate.
Tennessee had no answer defensively inside for Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson scored on whichever Vol post player guarded him and finished with a game-high 27 points on 8-13 shooting. He hit three of his five 3s and collected a game-high 11 rebounds. Dickinson’s 27 points were more than the combined scoring effort of Tennessee’s main four post players — John Fulkerson scored six, Jonas Aidoo four, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield four, and Uros Plavsic added nine.
Tennessee was playing as good as any team in the country before this game, which I think makes this loss sting even worse. When this team shot the ball well, it was really tough to beat. Unfortunately it just couldn’t stay hot long enough. Just a note: this was the first time this season that Tennessee lost a game after taking a lead into halftime.
The Vols have now made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament just once in four tries since Rick Barnes became head coach seven seasons ago.