You can breathe again, Tennessee fans.
The No. 2 seed in the South Region blew a 21-point lead at halftime against No. 10 Iowa but managed to hold off the Hawkeyes down the stretch, eking out an 83-77 overtime win in second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sunday.
Grant Williams, the SEC Player of the Year and Tennessee's leading scorer this season, navigated through foul trouble to post 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. And he came up huge in overtime, scoring six points and coming up with a clutch strip in the final minute preserve the win.
Admiral Schofield added 19 points and two steals, and Lamonte Turner scored 15.
No lead was safe against the Hawkeyes in this year's tournament.
Against Cincinnati in the first round, the Hawkeyes overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to win. At Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, they dug themselves out of an even deeper hole, trailing by as many as 25 points in the first half to force overtime in a gutsy showing led by stifling defense and effort.
All five of Iowa's starters scored in double digits, led by Jordan Bohannon (18 points, six rebounds) and Isaiah Moss (16 points, five boards, two steals).
Tennessee will need to clean up the defensive lapses if it wants to advance past Purdue in the Sweet 16.
Iowa, quite frankly, outworked and outplayed the Vols in the second half. Tennessee is very talented, but the margin of error will only shrink against a Purdue team that dismantled the defending champions, Villanova, in the round of 32.
Thankfully for UT, Williams saved his best for late, carrying his teammates late in regulation and in the overtime session.
While Williams did the heavy lifting in the clutch, Schofield carried them early, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the first half.
The senior guard was a non-factor in overtime, however, as he remained on the bench with four fouls, and Rick Barnes' decision to leave Schofield on the bench was a bit curious.
That will be another key for Tennessee against Purdue: keeping key players like Schofield out of foul trouble and on the court in crunch time.
In the end, Tennessee survived. That's all that matters. It wasn't easy. It wasn't without drama. It probably didn't need to be so close, given the huge lead the Vols blew. But they pulled it off, and they remain a major threat at this tournament, especially if they can maintain their focus and defensive intensity for 40 minutes.