COLUMBUS, Oh. (WTVF) — Trailing its NCAA Tournament opener against no. 15 seed Colgate by two with 10:52 to play Friday, Tennessee huddled at its bench during a timeout. There was no panic or fighting, just a resolve to get things right.
The veteran Vols regrouped and came out of the timeout to regain the lead - and control - on the way to a 77-70 win.
“We can’t get rattled,” point guard Jordan Bone said after the game. “There’s a lot of time left and we just have to execute. That’s the main thing we were preaching.”
The Raiders were without Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas, who missed the entire second half with an eye infection, but gave it their best shot without him.
Guard Jordan Burns poured in 32 points and Colgate hit 15 threes to rally back from a 12 point halftime deficit. A 14-4 run midway through the second half put the heavily favored Vols behind 52-50.
“Colgate’s a good team, you know,” said Lamonte Turner. “When they made a run, we didn’t panic, stayed calm and made our own.
Jordan Bowden gave Tennessee the lead back with a driving left handed layup. Then changed the momentum completely on the ensuing possession with a steal and a thundering two-handed jam.
And Admiral Schofield, who started the game by missing 10 of his first 13 shots, hit three straight threes down the stretch to put the game away.
“I wasn’t shooting well, so I tried not to jack up bad shots,” Schofield said. “I just let it come to me and when they found me I was ready to take the big shots and knocked them down.
That’s no surprise to Schofield’s teammates that have seen him step up in the clutch before, and were counting on him making a big play again.
“Big time players make big time shots and he’s done that many times this season,” said Bone.
So it wasn’t as easy as many expected Tennessee’s first round to go, but credit Colgate for playing hard and making a ton of difficult shots in its first NCAA Tournament appearance.
But you also have to credit Tennessee for keeping its cool under unexpected pressure, with the Nationwide Arena crowd roaring for the underdog, to make the plays necessary to win.
“We calmed down and got the things we wanted to do to win the game,” Tennessee star Grant Williams said. “All you have to do is survive and advance.”
The Vols advance to the second round for the second straight season. They now face no. 10 seed Iowa Sunday after the Hawkeyes knocked off Cincinnati 79-72 in game one on Friday.