Vols

Vols Find Resolve To Get Past Hawkeyes

Vols Find Resolve To Get Past Hawkeyes
Logan Quinton

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery couldn’t wait any longer. With a television timeout looming at the sound of the next whistle, the Hawkeyes opted to call a timeout with 14:29 left in the first half after Vols guard Jordan Bowden connected on a 3-point attempt.

Bowden’s basket punctuated a flurry by Tennessee where they extended a four-point lead even further thanks to a 9-2 run which forced the reluctant Iowa timeout.

Before the first stoppage of play, the Vols hit 3-of-4 3-pointers and had five players in the points column of the box score. Admiral Schofield continued his hot postseason play by posting 17 points and five rebounds at the half. He also had the Vols’ first six points from back-to-back 3-point shots to open the game. Tennessee forced ball pressure on defense and pushed tempo on offense for much of the first 20 minutes. The result was a 49-28 halftime lead.

What a difference a half makes.

Tennessee matched its poise and fluidity of the first half with lazy defense and stagnant offense in the second. This lapse in performance was attributed to “mindsets” that, according to senior Kyle Alexander, “was trying to conserve the lead.”

The Hawkeyes outscored the Vols 49-34 after the break. Tyler Cook led the charge by scoring Iowa’s first 11 points in the second half. Guards Isaiah Moss and Jordan Bohannon hit timely shots, which helped Iowa chip away at the Tennessee lead. The tandem finished with 16 and 18 points, respectively. Each had three 3-point makes.

With 2:39 remaining, Tennessee saw what was a 25-point lead vanish after Bohannon sank three free-throw attempts to tie the game at 67. The sequence was preceded by a questionable foul call on Vols’ guard Lamonte Turner as Bohannon launched the long distance attempt.

The teams would battle the last 159 seconds only to force a third period after a missed 3-point attempt from Tennessee guard Jordan Bone in the closing seconds.

What a difference an overtime makes.

According to Alexander, this is when their “mindsets” changed.

The Vols opened the extra period on a 7-0 run. Grant Williams, along with Bone, helped Tennessee extinguish the pesky Hawkeyes in the game’s last five minutes. The pair had 11 of the team’s 12 points in overtime.

The result of the Vols’ last minute resolve was an 83-77 win that advances them to the program’s sixth Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2000.

After a quiet first half, Williams finished the game with 19 points and seven rebounds, including two field goals and two free-throws in overtime. The All-American impressed on the defensive end as well. With four steals and three blocks, Williams made up for poor team defense down the stretch. Bone avenged his go-ahead miss in regulation with a three-pointer and two clutch free throws in the final five minutes.

One key piece missing from the Vols’ final run was Schofield. According to Turner, the senior opted to stay on the bench in the waning moments. “He told coach Barnes not to put him,” Turner stated. The junior guard praised the decision, which allowed a longer Alexander to make an impact on defense.

Schofield finished with 19 points, despite an underwhelming second half. Even when the senior was ineffective or absent, other stars rose to the occasion to help the Vols avoid a tremendous letdown that would have brought their championship aspirations to a halt.

Despite the optics of the second half performance, this Tennessee team seems unafraid of pressure situations. Alexander states, “We have to thrive in these situations.”

It wasn’t pretty and it was a wild ride, but the Vols did just that: they found a win to survive and advance, which is the only blueprint for March.

Blowing a 25-point lead is concerning, especially to a veteran team composed of an All-American and other All-Conference performers. But with no mulligans left in the tank and Schofield relegating himself to the bench, the Vols found a way.

Regardless of how or why they got into this predicament, this Vols team was able to adapt on the fly and avoid a monumental loss. They responded while standing at the edge of despair and without one its leaders in crunch time.

Sunday’s experience should serve Tennessee well next round. The Vols move on to face a tough Purdue team in Louisville, Ky. for a chance to advance to the South Regional Final.

Written by Logan Quinton in conjunction with Trey Wallace

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