Tennessee thrashes Minutemen
PNC Center Raleigh NC. 3/21/14. UMass No.3 Chaz Williams, powers the ball up in the lane to the hoop past Tennessee's No.4 Armani Moore in the 2nd half.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
PNC Center Raleigh NC. 3/21/14. UMass No.1 Maxie Esho, powers the ball up in the lane to the hoop past Tennessee's No.5 Jarnell Stokes in the 2nd half.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
PNC Center Raleigh NC. 3/21/14. UMass No.1 Maxie Esho, looks visable dejected after loosing to Tennessee in the 2nd round of the NCAA Mid-West Regional game
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
RALEIGH, N.C. — Just under 81/2 minutes remained in Friday’s NCAA tournament second-round game when the action was halted for a lengthy delay to clean blood spots on the floor. By then, though, UMass had spilled almost enough of its own blood to have to leave PNC Arena on a stretcher.
Tennessee held a 23-point lead over the Minutemen at that moment, and save for a five-minute stretch to start the second half, the Volunteers controlled the action throughout to put an 86-67 hurting on UMass. The Minutemen’s first appearance in NCAA tournament play in 16 years proved brief, frustrating and downright unsightly for the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Regional, and turned into their second-largest margin of defeat in 20 all-time NCAA games.
UMass (24-9) fell into a 19-point hole at halftime, recovered to cut the deficit to 10, and then cracked for good against Tennessee’s well-balanced inside-outside game. The Volunteers’ two pillars of strength, both listed at 6-8 and 260 pounds, battered the UMass frontcourt for a combined 37 points and 25 rebounds. Jarnell Stokes scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, pulled down 14 rebounds and made 12-of-13 free throws to lead Tennessee, and Jeronne Maymon filed a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards.
From the backcourt, Jordan McRae added 21 points, 14 of them coming before halftime, and Josh Richardson scored 15.
In the final game of his three-year UMass career, senior guard Chaz Williams had 12 points and five assists but also turned the ball over five times. Maxie Esho, making his first start of the season in place of Raphiael Putney, also scored 12 points and Derrick Gordon also finished in double figures with 10. Trey Davis came off the bench for nine points and Cady Lalanne finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
“Today, we ran into a Tennessee team that played very physical and tough around the rim, and took us out of a lot of things we try to do,” said coach Derek Kellogg. “Offensively, I thought we struggled mightily in the first half, turned the ball over 10 times, it led to easy baskets and then we were playing catch-up from there on out. I thought our guys fought in the second half, but we never could really get over the hump.
“The game didn’t turn out quite the way we would have liked, but these (seniors) gave their heart and soul to the program. I would say it was a terrific season.”
Tennessee (23-12), the No. 11 seed in the Midwest and winners of seven of their last eight games, showed no ill effects from a first-round game late Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, where the Vols knocked out Iowa in overtime. They arrived in Raleigh at about 2:45 a.m. Thursday, but were fresh, energized and effective from Friday’s opening tip.
“I think it was more jitters than anything. We were so excited that we were too excited, I think,” said Williams. “We were moving too fast, we weren’t in our positions where we needed to be on offense and defense. I think that kind of took away from what we wanted to do. We had a couple of great practices these past couple of days. I felt like we were gonna come out great, but once we get under these lights and the crowd starts roaring, we started second-guessing.
“I felt like we were getting whatever we wanted, we weren’t finishing one-foot baskets. We missed nine layups in the first half and we were down (19).”
Tennessee methodically built its first-half lead behind a pair of 9-0 runs and a 8-0 run, eventually going up by as many as 20 points before the break. Maymon had nine points and six rebounds in the half and Stokes added six points and seven boards. Williams, Esho and Lalanne each scored six to lead the Minutemen.
Gordon got UMass started with a runner in the lane 1:15 in for a 2-0 lead, but McRae answered with a 3-pointer to start Tennessee’s run of eight in a row. From a 12-8 lead, the Volunteers ran nine in a row, going up 21-8 with 11:33 to go when Maymon converted a McRae miss.
The killer burst came with UMass down 23-14. McRae scored a pair of baskets around Maymon’s free throw, Richardson hit a foul-line jumper to force a UMass timeout and Maymon scored off a lob by Darius Thompson for a 32-14 Vol advantage.
Tennessee went up by 20 on two occasions, the last at 38-18 on McRae’s fast-break flush. Esho made two at the line and Williams went the distance off a steal as UMass pulled to within 38-22, but McRae sank a deep 3-pointer from out on top with six seconds on the clock to boost the Vols into a 41-22 hold at the half.
UMass turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes and managed only 33 percent from the field at 10-of-30, against Tennessee’s 52 percent (17-of-33).
Finally stung into action, the Minutemen began the second half with six straight points, a pair of baskets by Gordon with Lalanne’s layup off Williams’ feed in between to make it 41-28. Richardson and Stokes answered to put Tennessee back up by 17, with Stokes’ basket coming off a block by Richardson of Gordon’s fast-break layup try off a steal.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Sampson Carter, his only points of the day, made it a 46-36 game, as close as the Minutemen would get. Williams hit a jumper from the left elbow at the 13:49 mark to make it 48-38, but Tennessee answered with yet another run, this one for seven straight including five points by McRae, to put the Vols up 55-38. UMass managed only two field goals in a stretch of almost six minutes as Tennessee eased out to a 23-point lead at 67-44.
“We definitely felt like it was going to be a turning point,” said Carter of the Minutemen’s rally to within 10 points. “I can’t even tell you what went wrong.”
“I didn’t think we could beat Tennessee in the halfcourt with their size and brawn inside,” said Kellogg. “I thought we had to turn it into a track meet. It only became a track meet for probably about seven, eight minutes of the game, when we cut it to 10.”
The Volunteers kept the game safe and well out of UMass’ reach by making 13 straight free throws at one stretch of the second half, 19-of-23 in the final 20 minutes, and 24-of-31 for the entire game.
With just over two minutes to go, Kellogg pulled his seniors to give freshmen Demetrius Dyson, Clyde Santee and Seth Berger some late run. Berger scored on a breakaway and sophomore Tyler Bergantino added a couple of baskets in the final seconds.
Williams, Carter and Putney wrapped up their UMass careers on Friday, with a combined 70-32 record over the past three seasons after Williams’ transfer from Hofstra. The dynamo guard, charitably listed at 5-9 but much closer to 5-6, ended with 1,653 points at UMass and moved into seventh place on the school’s all-time scoring list, 10 points ahead of Tony Barbee.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet and probably will never hit me until the NCAA is over,” said Williams. “I feel like we’re supposed to be playing until April 7. Everything we did, seems like it’s all downhill now after this loss. This is a tough one.
“Coach just let us know that we fought through everything. Life is about to get real for us, so we’ve got to keep fighting.”
Tennessee’s no-nonsense performance followed the biggest upset thus far in this NCAA tournament season. No. 14 seed Mercer, of the Atlantic Sun Conference, picked off third-seeded Duke in Friday’s opening game in Raleigh, 78-71, to advance to Sunday’s third-round game against the Volunteers. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 next weekend in Indianapolis.