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Tennessee reaches a new level

Victory over Ohio State puts Volunteers in the Elite Eight for the first time.

March 26, 2010|By Shannon Ryan
  • Tennessee guard Bobby Maze defends as Ohio State forward Evan Turner throws a pass while losing his balance in the first half of their NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinal game on Friday night.
Tennessee guard Bobby Maze defends as Ohio State forward Evan Turner throws… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)

Reporting from St. Louis — Tennessee players walked onto the court at the Edward Jones Dome to chants by Ohio State fans reminding them of 2007, when the Buckeyes bounced them from the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. They left it to cheers from Volunteers fans, thrilled that Tennessee finally rewrote its history.

The sixth-seeded Volunteers are in their first Elite Eight after knocking second-seeded Ohio State out of the Sweet 16 this time with a 76-73 victory.

"I'm proud to tears," Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl said. "I can't even tell you how happy I am, but we'll reflect when the season is over."

Tennessee center Brian Williams scored on a tip-in with 32 seconds left for a 74-73 lead, answering a huge three-point shot Evan Turner had just made that had put the Buckeyes up by a point with 41.4 seconds to play. Bobby Maze connected on two free throws with 12 seconds remaining.

"I felt more pressure shooting them in practice because we have a competition, guards against the bigs," Maze said. "If the big men win they make fun of us. "

Turner's two possible game-winning three-pointers missed, the last blocked by J.P. Prince that Turner wanted to have called a foul. He stormed off the court without his teammates and without shaking hands with the Volunteers, who were busy celebrating to "Rocky Top" in front of their orange-clad fans.

"They didn't call it, so I guess it wasn't a foul," Turner said. "Call could've gone both ways. You can't really dwell on it anymore."

He scored 31 points, 21 of them in the second half.

After a season filled with embarrassing headlines for players' New Year's Day arrests that resulted in a dismissal and suspensions, Tennessee is determined to be remembered for something more positive. The Volunteers are doing a good job of it so far.

"This team stayed together as a family," said forward Wayne Chism, who led the Volunteers with 22 points and 11 rebounds. 

Pearl said he got on his team for lackluster defense in the first half, when Tennessee allowed Ohio State to shoot 55.6%. The Buckeyes shot only 32.3% after halftime.

The Volunteers outscored Ohio State 50-22 in the paint and outrebounded the Buckeyes, 41-29. Their physicality seemed to make a difference against Ohio State, which used only seven players and played three of them 40 minutes.

Jon Diebler, who was on a tear in the tournament, made only one of seven three-point tries.

sryan@tribune.com

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