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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Rick Barnes has been a head coach for over three decades. Up until this season, he had never been a National Coach of the Year. Now, he can check that off his list.

    The United States Basketball Writers Association named Barnes their National Coach of the Year on Monday. For Barnes, the award marks the first time he’s been recognized nationally as a coach of the year in college basketball. He’s earned conference coach of the year six different times, including last season as head coach of the Vols. But he had never been named the coach of the year in all of college basketball till this season.

    And in typical Barnes’ fashion, he didn’t take much of the credit for the accomplishment.

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    “I think when coaches get an award, it goes directly back to their players and their staff, because we all know that it’s a team,” Barnes said during his press conference on Monday after it was announced he had won the award. “It’s truly an honor, the personal honor it is. But again, it wouldn’t have happened without our coaches. I have the best coaching staff in the country, and obviously what the players do, that’s what it gets down to, the success we’ve had.

    “Boy, that’s a nice honor.”

    This season has been a historic one for Tennessee, and they could still make more history later this week. Barnes has helped guide the Vols to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2014, and UT’s 31 wins this season are tied for the most in a single season in school history. Tennessee also earned the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll for four-straight weeks earlier this season, marking the longest reign atop the polls in program history. The Vols also set another school record when they won 19-straight games during the regular season.

    Another first that happened under Barnes’ watch this season was Tennessee going wire-to-wire as a top-10 team in the AP Poll. The Vols began the season ranked No. 6 in the poll and ended the regular season ranked No. 8. That final ranking was actually the lowest the Vols ever fell in the AP Poll this season.

    Barnes is the first coach in Tennessee history to win the National Coach of the Year award from the USBWA, and he’s a finalist for the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year as well.

      Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

      This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI contributor Lexie Little

      While the men’s basketball team heads to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in program history, the Lady Vols (19-13) head home following a season-ending loss in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, falling to the UCLA Bruins (21-12) by a score of 89-77 in College Park, Maryland.

      The Lady Vols have a storied history in tournament play, appearing in all 38 tournaments, including one in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

      March 27, 2010

      The Lady Vols held the No. 1 seed. Coach Pat Summitt and the women in orange and white wanted a sweet victory against the Baylor Lady Bears. With a 32-3 record on the season, Tennessee thought the season might end in confetti and another title.

      But a goliath stood in the way. And she didn’t go down.

      Baylor freshman Brittney Griner took revenge against the Vols who bested her and her teammates in the first game of the season in a 74-65 win for Tennessee. At 6-foot-8, Griner powered past multiple Tennessee defenders to score 27 points and block 10 shots, leading the four seed to a 77-62 win in Memphis to end the Lady Vols’ season.

      Angie Bjorklund, a national champion in 2008, scored 12 points in the match-up.

      “I think any time you play against a 6-8 player, it’s going to be tough to shoot over her,” Bjorklund said of Griner.

      Tough it was. Griner stood two inches taller than Lady Vol center Kelley Cain, drawing fouls and hitting layups on a 21-1 run. Griner’s impressive skills as a freshman translated to further successful campaigns, leading to a notable professional career with the Phoenix Mercury, winning a WNBA Championship in 2014 and a gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

      March 28, 2014

      As Rick Barnes and the 2018-19 squad hope to stay alive in the Sweet 16, one cannot help but to remember the 73-71 loss to the University of Michigan in 2014. Reaching the round of 16 for only the seventh time in program history, Cuonzo Martin and the No. 11 seed Vols hoped to dash the dreams of the No. 2 seed Wolverines, but senior Jordan McRae’s 24 points and Josh Richardson’s 19 points could not fend off their northern foes.

      With six seconds left on the clock and the score at 72-71, Tennessee stood poised to take the lead and seal the win. But a charging call on Jarnell Stokes gave the ball and the victory to Michigan.

      “I don’t think I fouled him,” Stokes said postgame. “It was a smart play for him to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it.”

      The call left Martin with no more to say than, “I thought he made a good move and the official called a charge.” After a bitter loss, the Vols sat stunned before the press, which repeatedly asked for thoughts on the foul. Disbelief painted the faces of players, coaches, and Vol faithful heading for home from Indianapolis. Climbing out of a 15-point deficit, the underdog Vols had readied themselves for a fairytale win.

      “God didn’t give us a storybook ending,” Stokes said.

      The 2018-19 Vols (31-5) hope to rewrite the narrative against Purdue (25-9) on Thursday. Stokes continues his story with the Memphis Grizzlies, having signed a contract Jan. 1 of this year after prior stints with the Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets and in the NBA G League.

      March 26, 2004

      Before he became athletic director, he was the head ball coach. Phillip Fulmer walks the sidelines of Haslam Field at practice now without the ability to instruct, but in 2004, he stood among the Vols as they prepared for their first spring scrimmage, one where all eyes would be on the potential starting quarterbacks.

      The No. 6 Vols lost the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl to Clemson 27-14 after a 10-3 season in 2003, one in which Tennessee defeated Alabama in five overtimes with a 51-43 win. Tennessee also lost quarterback Casey Clausen to graduation. The four-year starter threw for 384 yards in his final game against the Tigers, leaving a mark on UT history and a big hole in the Tennessee offense.

      At practice on March 26, 2004, Fulmer watched as senior C.J. Leak and junior Rick Clausen took snaps behind center in hopes of emerging as the starter following the next-day scrimmage. Junior wide receiver James Banks prepped himself to spend some time at the position the following week.

      “We’ll protect them as best we can, but they need to play, move in the pocket, get on the perimeter and run,” Fulmer said. “See how they manage it.”

      None of the aforementioned won the starting job.

      Freshman Brent Schaeffer started the 2004 campaign against UNLV, the first true freshman to start in a Southeastern Conference opener since 1945 when John Rauch took the field for Georgia. But the freshman with a fumble, rushing touchdown, and passing touchdown wasn’t the only first-year man slinging for the Vols. Erik Ainge entered and threw for two touchdowns. Ainge’s arm edged out Schaeffer’s swift ground game, earning the starting job to lead Tennessee to wins over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

      However, it was Clausen who led the No. 15 Vols to a 38-7 win over then-Big 12 competitors Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl to conclude the 2004 season.

      “Clausen showed the poise and patience of a season leader, not a junior transfer who was beaten out by two freshmen and was playing only because they were both hurt,” AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron wrote in the recap. “Clausen, who began the year in a support role, received the Sanford Trophy, which recognizes the game’s outstanding offensive player and commemorates Cotton Bowl founder J. Curtis Sanford.”

      Little did Fulmer know during that spring practice Clausen would not be his season starter. Little did he know he’d also be the one to lead Tennessee to the then most lopsided victory in the program’s bowl history.

        (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

        Tennessee and Purdue will face-off on Thursday, March 28th for a chance to advance to the Elite Eight. Now both teams know what time they will tip-off.

        The No. 2 seed Vols (31-5) and No. 3 seed Boilermakers (25-9) will start their Sweet Sixteen match-up at approximately 7:29 PM Eastern in Louisville, Kentucky. The game will be televised on TBS nationally.

        Purdue blew past No. 14 seed Old Dominion in the first round of the tournament, winning by a score of 61-48. The Boilermakers led by double-digits for nearly the entire second half and were led by Carsen Edwards’ 26 points and seven rebounds. Purdue then took care of business against the reigning national champions, taking down six-seed Villanova by a score of 87-61. Edwards was again the leading scorer, dumping in a whopping 42 points while nailing nine of his 16 three-pointers.

        The Vols survived two upset bids in their first two games of the NCAA Tournament to get to this point. Tennessee downed No. 15 seed Colgate by a score of 77-70 in the first round, surviving a barrage of threes by the Raiders. On Sunday, the Vols blew a 25-point first half lead and ended up going to overtime with No. 10 seed Iowa, but Tennessee prevailed in overtime and won 83-77.

        Now, these two teams will compete for a spot in the Elite Eight.

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        Tennessee and Purdue have never played in the postseason, but the two teams faced-off last season early in the year. The Vols took the Boilermakers to overtime and wound up winning 78-75 in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in mid-November of 2017.

        This year’s Purdue team is nothing like last season’s squad, however.

        The Boilermakers were led in scoring by Carsen Edwards last year just like this year, but his supporting cast is drastically different. Purdue featured four senior starters along with Edwards, and all that experience and prowess led the Boilermakers to a 30-win season, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. Purdue ended up losing to Texas Tech in that game, however, and they fell short of the Elite Eight.

        This year, Purdue has two senior starters alongside Edwards and two sophomores starting at center and guard, respectively.

        For Purdue, they’ll be playing for a chance at their first Elite Eight appearance since 2000. Tennessee will be looking to get to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010 on Thursday.

        Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Purdue has only made it to the Elite Eight twice. They got there in 1994 and again in 2000. The Vols have only made it once in school history, with that appearance coming in 2010. Neither school has ever advanced to the Final Four since 1985.

          Tennessee escaped with an overtime victory over Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and it wasn’t an easy win.

          The Vols held a 25-point edge late in the first half and roared out to a 49-28 lead at halftime. Tennessee was just as crisp on defense as they were on offense, and they were rolling over the Hawkeyes.

          That all flipped upside down in the second half.

          Iowa came out with greater defensive intensity in the second half, and the Vols played sloppy at times on offense. All of that led to the Hawkeyes eventually erasing that 21-point halftime deficit and tying the game with 2:39 to play. Tennessee would grab a four-point lead after that point, but then that would get erased again, and with just over 20 seconds left in regulation, Iowa tied up the game a second time.

          The game when to overtime, and Tennessee finally found themselves again.

          Get your exclusive Barnestorming tee today! Click the image above and use the coupon code MM15 to get 15% off while supplies last!

          Grant Williams scored the first points of overtime with two free throws, and the Vols got the first seven points of the extra frame. That would be all they needed, as they outscored Iowa 12-6 in overtime to win 83-77 and advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014.

          After the game, Tennessee’s players had plenty to say about what happened during the bizarre and thrilling game.

          All video was captured by RTI staff writer Ben McKee

          Admiral Schofield talked about why he took himself out of the game late and in overtime, Tennessee’s defense, and more.

          Grant Williams discussed the Vols’ lack of defensive intensity to start the second half, the pivotal foul call on Lamonte Turner late in the second half, and much more.

          Kyle Alexander talked about his effort on the defensive end, playing to win rather than playing not to lose, and more.

          Lamonte Turner discussed the difference between the Vols’ mindset in the first half and the second half, the “phantom foul” called on him in the second half, and more.

          Jordan Bowden mentioned Kyle Alexander’s presence on defense, how his own defense fuels his offense, and more.

          Jordan Bone discussed his confidence in his own shooting ability, what was going through his mind when UT was giving up their lead in the second half, and much more.

            (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

            In this special edition of the RTI Podcast, managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee discuss the Vols’ collapse and recovery against Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. What changed for the Vols at halftime to go from dominating the Hawkeyes to suddenly letting the game slip through their fingers? What was the reaction like in Columbus? What does this performance mean for UT moving forward, and who stood out the most for the Vols in this game? They also look ahead briefly to Tennessee’s match-up with Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen.

            The RTI Podcast comes out every twice every week. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes here!

              (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

              In the first half of Tennessee’s game against Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Admiral Schofield couldn’t miss.

              Tennessee’s senior wing made six of his nine shots overall and was 3-of-4 from three en route to 17 points and five rebounds in his first 14 minutes of play. The rest of UT’s team followed along with him, as the Vols put up 49 points and shot 51.4 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three. The Vols led by as much as 25 points in the first half and had a 49-28 advantage at halftime.

              But the second half was a completely different story.

              Iowa stormed back and played with much greater intensity on defense. The Hawkeyes limited Tennessee to just 22 points in the second half, and the Vols only made seven field goals as a team on 21 attempts.

              For Schofield, his second half was one to forget.

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              Admiral was limited to just two points and missed all but one of his six field goal attempts. He also picked up two fouls to go along with the two he got whistled for in the first half, meaning he was one foul away from sitting the rest of the game.

              Schofield attempted a somewhat ill-advised three-pointer with 41 seconds to go in regulation with Tennessee up by two. Jordan Bowden was called for a foul on the other end, and Joe Wieskamp made both of his free throws to tie the game up at 71-all with just over 20 seconds left.

              Jordan Bone called a timeout once he crossed half court on the Vols’ ensuing possession, and Schofield went to the bench for Tennessee’s final possession of regulation.

              He would remain there for the entire overtime period.

              The Vols’ senior guard didn’t play a single minute in overtime, but Tennessee didn’t need his efforts on the court to win. Tennessee scored the first seven point in the extra period and ended up pulling out an 83-77 victory in overtime against the Hawkeyes to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

              So why did Schofield sit for the last five-plus minutes of the game? According to head coach Rick Barnes, it’s because Schofield didn’t think he was helping his team win.

              “He didn’t want to play,” Barnes said to the media after the game. “He kept saying ‘leave Kyle (Alexander) in the game. He said ‘Kyle is important.’ With four fouls, he knew they were going to come right at him. He said ‘Coach I can’t guard the way I need to guard. I’m going to foul out. So you gotta leave Kyle in.’

              “That was his decision.”

              Kyle Alexander, the Vols’ other senior scholarship player on the roster, was responsible for guarding the rim and trying to limit what Iowa’s big men could do offensively. For the most part, he did just that, limiting Tyler Cook and Luka Garza to a combined 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Cook was just 4-of-12 from the field and Garza was 4-of-8. The duo also only pulled down six combined rebounds. Both players averaged a combined 11.5 rebounds a game heading into Sunday’s contest.

              On offense, Alexander wasn’t a slouch, either. He finished with eight points and nine rebounds. His nine boards were the high water mark for both teams, and three of those were offensive rebounds.

              Alexander’s efforts were crucial in Tennessee’s ability to out-rebound Iowa 41-34 and stay even on the offensive glass. Both teams pulled down 13 offensive rebounds in the game.

              After the game, Schofield backed up Barnes’ statement about why he didn’t play in overtime.

              “I’m (Alexander’s) roommate. He hasn’t been able to finish games for over two months now. I thought this was his moment, he needed to go in and finish,” Schofield said. “I just told coach to keep Kyle in. I was being adamant about it. I think they wanted me in because they know I hit shots and score, but I just thought Kyle had a bigger impact than I did today in the second half.”

              Schofield stated that at first, Barnes and UT’s coaching staff didn’t listen to his plea. Barnes put him back out on the floor despite him saying he couldn’t guard the way he wanted to with four fouls.

              They quickly realized that was a mistake, though.

              “He threw me in, then they realized they gotta get Kyle in and took me out,” Schofield explained. “I was just encouraging and just trying to be a leader.”

              The senior guard says this wasn’t the first time he’s done that this season. He claims he’s taken himself out of games in favor of someone else “plenty of times” this season, though he couldn’t point to a specific occasion other than Sunday when pressed.

              Schofield’s plan worked, and Alexander’s defensive presence along with timely shots from Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bone, and Grant Williams helped the Vols prevail even after they let their massive lead crumble.

              He wasn’t on the floor for the final five minutes, but Schofield doesn’t care about that. He just wants to win and advance.

              “I’m not a selfish person. I just want to win,” Schofield said. “At the end of the day, I thought Kyle gave us a better advantage of winning because of his size and his impact on the glass today.”