The Tennessee Volunteers played their hearts out against the Ohio State Buckeyes—and they earned a trip to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.
Throughout the entire game, it was a hard-fought battle—but in the end, Tennessee wanted it more.
Tennessee showed more poise and determination against the Buckeyes. The Vols had more ball movement, more points in the paint, way more rebounds, and more alley-oops from half court—and it equaled more points at the end of the game.
Ohio State had three guys go the full 40 minutes of the game, and the Buckeyes only used two bench players—three less than the 10-man rotation coach Bruce Pearl used with his Volunteers.
I was still impressed with how hard the Buckeyes played using so few players. As hard as they played, they just couldn’t get used to the constant rotation Tennessee threw at them.
Every time Ohio State would get a good tempo going on offense or defense, Tennessee would throw a different player into the mix—which made just enough difference to throw off the Buckeyes game. Even with the rotation headaches, Ohio State had a narrow lead for the majority of the game.
Ohio State unleashed its secret weapon in the second half: Evan Turner. One of the players who played the entire game, Turner finished with 31 points and seven rebounds.
All through the second half, he seemed unstoppable. It didn’t matter who was guarding him, he always seemed to hit—and every time he did, every Vols fan got a little bit more worried.
Tennessee had a secret weapon of their own, though.
Wayne Chism took over for the Vols in the second half, finishing with 22 points and 11 boards. Call it superstition, but when Chism took off his headband early in the second half, he transformed into a totally different player. Chism took the lead of his team—and he showed his teammates the way to the Elite Eight.
Helping Chism take control of the game were big man Brian Williams and lefty JP Prince. Williams had 12 rebounds, combining with Chism for more boards than the entire Buckeyes team. Not to mention, he also hit the go-ahead basket with 12 seconds to go in the second half.
Prince finished with six assists and 14 points, including throwing down a dunk from a half-court alley-oop that started Tennessee’s momentum boost early in the first half.
So what does all this mean? It means that as amazing as Turner is, he couldn’t beat Tennessee by himself.
And even though the Buckeyes played great and showed a few scary moments to Tennessee, the Volunteers finished on top—and they will face the winner of Northern Iowa and Michigan State on Monday.