It looked like it would be easy. Until it wasn’t.
The Vols roared out to a 25-point lead in the first half over Iowa, and things were clicking on both offense and defense for No. 2 seed Tennessee against the No. 10 seed Hawkeyes. But the second half was a complete 180, and Iowa sent the game to overtime.
Then, Tennessee finally reasserted themselves in the extra period.
Tennessee (31-5) outscored Iowa (23-12) 12-6 in overtime, and they recovered just in time to pull out an 83-77 victory over the Hawkeyes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The win puts the Vols in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014.
The Vols started out as strongly as you could’ve asked for on Sunday.
Admiral Schofield nailed a three on Tennessee’s first possession of the game, and then he hit another one from the corner on the Vols’ second possession to give UT an early 6-2 lead. The Vols were off and running in the first half after that point.
Tennessee dominated on both ends of the floor in the first half and held a 49-28 lead over Iowa at halftime. The Hawkeyes had almost as many turnovers (8) as field goals made (9) in the first half.
Remember Admiral Schofield’s hot start? Well he had 17 points in the first half for the Vols. He also grabbed five rebounds while shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from three to start before missing one later in the half.
But the start of the second half was a different story.
Iowa cut that 21-point halftime deficit to single digits when they made it a 53-44 game with 13:35 to go in the second half. The Vols made just one of their first nine field goal attempts to start the second half, and Iowa took advantage of UT going ice cold. Tennessee briefly retook control, but then their collapse continued.
Eventually, the Hawkeyes cut the Vols’ lead down to just three points when Luka Garza hit two free throws to make it a 61-58 game. Tennessee got back up to a seven-point lead, but then Iowa’s Isaiah Moss hit a three in the corner as the shot clock expired with 4:21 to go to draw the Hawkeyes within one, 65-64.
With 2:39 to go, Tennessee’s collapse became complete.
Officials called a questionable foul on Lamonte Turner as Jordan Bohannon attempted a three, and Bohannon went to the line and made all three of his free throws to tie the game at 67-all.
Then, Lamonte Turner drained a clutch three to give the Vols a 70-67 lead. Jordan Bowden made one of his two free throws with 57 seconds remaining, and that gave UT a four-point lead. Iowa scored on their ensuing possession with a Moss layup, then Joe Wieskamp nailed two free throws with just over 20 seconds remaining to tie it up again.
Jordan Bone missed a three on Tennessee’s possession, and Wieskamp came down with the rebound but couldn’t get a timeout called, and the game went to overtime.
In the extra frame, Tennessee turned to Grant Williams time and time again on offense and defense both. He scored six of the Vols’ first nine points in overtime, and he had a clutch steal on defense that helped give UT an extra possession.
The Vols outscored Iowa 12-6 in overtime, and they overcame their own collapse to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s bizarre second round victory over Iowa.
A Collapse, then Recovery
Iowa almost completed the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. But almost doesn’t count.
The Vols had a 25-point lead when they went up 44-19 in the first half over the Hawkeyes, and they held a 21-point halftime lead. Tennessee was on fire on offense and was playing lockdown on defense as well. UT shot 51.4 percent from the floor in the first half and had nine assists on 18 made buckets. They forced eight Iowa turnovers and outrebounded the Hawkeyes 23-16. Admiral Schofield had 17 points in the first half of play.
In the second half, Iowa completely flipped the script.
The upset-minded Hawkeyes outscored the Vols 43-22 in the second half and played with much greater intensity. They only turned the ball over twice while forcing 10 Tennessee turnovers. The Vols were held to an abysmal 33.3 percent from the field in the second half and only made one of their five three-pointers. Admiral Schofield totaled just two points and was 1-of-6 overall in the second half.
Tennessee made just seven field goals in the second half, and they totaled just two assists compared to their 10 turnovers.
As bad as the collapse was for UT, they never let Iowa take the lead. The Hawkeyes tied the game twice, but they could never break even.
The Vols reset themselves in overtime and found their groove again. They made three of their four field goals and were 5-of-6 from the free throw line. They also turned Iowa over twice and outrebounded them 3 to 1.
It was a collapse, until it wasn’t.
Ride the SEC Player of the Year
Tennessee didn’t get Grant Williams the ball enough in regulation, but they rode him to victory in overtime.
Williams drew a foul and sank both his free throws to start the scoring in the extra period. Jordan Bone then hit a three, and Grant Williams took possession on the Vols’ next trip on offense and made a jumper in the paint. After Luka Garza hit two free throws, Williams again hit a pretty jump shot to give the Vols a seven-point lead with 1:59 to go.
The two-time SEC Player of the Year finished with 19 points, and he scored six of them at a clutch time in overtime. He also came up with arguably the play of the game when he poked the ball away from Tyler Cook to get a steal and give UT the ball back.
That play proved to be as crucial as his six early points in the overtime period.
When Tennessee needed him most, Grant Williams came up huge. The Vols should’ve gotten him the ball more often earlier in the game, but it’s better late than never for UT.
What Happened with Admiral?
Admiral Schofield was can’t miss in the first half. He was 3-of-4 from three, 6-of-9 from the floor, and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. He had 17 of the Vols’ 49 points in the first half, and he was tied with Kyle Alexander for the team lead in rebounds with five.
Second half Admiral was a completely different player, though.
Schofield’s play was a microcosm of UT’s play as a team in the second half. He scored just two points and missed all but one of his six shots from the field. He got in foul trouble in the half, too, and he only played 10 minutes.
Because of his poor play and foul trouble, he actually asked head coach Rick Barnes to take him out of the game.
“He didn’t want to play,” Barnes said after the game about Schofield. “He kept saying ‘keep Kyle (Alexander) in the game.” That was his decision. He told me to leave Kyle in the game.”
Schofield couldn’t play the style of game he wanted to with four fouls, and it was getting in his head. He sat for the Vols’ final possession of regulation, and he didn’t play at all in overtime.
It’s unusual to see a veteran player not want to be on the floor late in a close game, but credit to Schofield for realizing he wasn’t helping his team with his play.
Vols Own Iowa in OT
Tennessee once again dominated Iowa in overtime in basketball.
The last time these two teams played was back in 2014 in one of the “First Four” play-in games. That game also went into overtime, and the Vols ran away with the game from the Hawkeyes in that extra frame. Tennessee outscored Iowa 14-1 in overtime in that game and won 78-65.
On Sunday, it was more of the same.
Tennessee asserted themselves in overtime against Iowa again, this time outscoring them 12-6 in the extra period. The Vols scored the first seven points of overtime, and Iowa never got back closer than five points after that point.
In two NCAA Tournament games between the two teams, Tennessee has outscored Iowa 26-7 in overtime.
First Time Since…
With the win, the Vols ended a few streaks.
Tennessee’s win sends them to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2014. It’s also the first time that Rick Barnes has made it beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 2008. All the teams he had taken to the Big Dance since then either got eliminated in the first round or got bounced in the second round.
The victory also gives the Vols their 31st win of the season. That ties the 2007-08 team for the most wins in a single season in school history.
For the Vols to set that school record and to get to the Elite Eight for only the second time ever, they’ll have to beat No. 3 seed Purdue. The Boilermakers routed Villanova in the second round to get to the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday, and they’ll take on Tennessee in Louisville for a chance to advance to the Elite Eight.