Thanks to four players finishing in double figures and another grabbing twelve rebounds, the Tennessee Volunteers are headed to their first-ever Elite 8. Wayne Chism led the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds (18 pts in the second half) and Brian Williams added 12 rebounds as the Vols dominated the glass 41-29, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds in their 76-73 win over two-seed Ohio State in St. Louis. Evan Turner scored 31 points to lead the Big Ten Tournament champions but outside of William Buford (15 points) no other Buckeye reached double figures. Jon Diebler, who had shot well for the better portion of the last month, finished 1-for-8 from the field (1-7 3PT).
Tennessee shot 53% from inside the arc, making up for hitting just four of fifteen shots from beyond it, and once again their rebounding cannot be overlooked when figuring out how they won. Rebounding 55.6% of your missed shots is outstanding and few teams will lose, even if it takes a J.P. Prince block of Evan Turner as time expired to seal the deal. Brian Williams scored the go-ahead basket with 32 seconds remaining and Bobby Maze added a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds to go, and the fact that so many played a part in the victory displays the difference between the two teams.
"We as a team, we all get tired. We all need help. We're not going to be perfect," said Prince, who finished with 14 points and six assists. "And Cameron Tatum did a great job of picking me up in the first half and Brian Williams and Melvin did a great job picking us up, and we knew that their six wouldn't be able to run with us the whole game because we had more depth, and you could tell they were tired the second half. Their legs weren't all there and their shots didn't fall the same as in the first half when they were fresh."
The Buckeyes shot 55.6% from the field in the first half, leading 42-39 at the break. But playing at Tennessee's preferred tempo wasn't ideal for Ohio State despite playing with the same rotation all season long. While those minutes along the way can get you in better shape to do so they can also serve to wear you down at the end of the season. OSU made just 32.3% of their shots (25% 3PT) in the final twenty minutes while Tennessee shot 48.4% (15-24 2PT), and for the game outscored the Buckeyes 50-22 in the paint. Next up for Tennessee is Michigan State, who outlasted Northern Iowa 59-52 in the second game of the night.
Korie Lucious made a turnaround jumper with 1:31 left in the game to put the Spartans ahead by four and a Chris Allen layup sealed the deal just thirty seconds later. And just like Tennessee the Spartans' improved play in the paint got them to the Elite 8. Led by Missouri Valley Player of the Year Adam Koch (13 points), the Panthers outscored Michigan State 14-6 in the paint in the first half, leading 29-22 at the intermission. Michigan State flipped that in the second half, outscoring UNI 16-4 in that portion of the game while also getting seventeen points from their bench throughout the contest.
"I thought the big keys to the game in the second half -- we were getting outrebounded at halftime," said head coach Tom Izzo. "We did a better job rebounding the ball. We were not getting the ball inside. We did a better job getting the ball inside."
Michigan State shot 54.5% from the field in the second half while holding the Panthers to 23.8%, taking away UNI's inside game in the process. In fact, UNI went the last 10:22 without a field goal, scoring all of their remaining points from the foul line. "One thing we said at that point was we had to get stops. We know that we can score the basketball," said forward Draymond Green. "We know we can get easy shots. We can get a shot we want. But it's going to come down to getting stops."
Durrell Summers led all scorers with 19 points, knocking down a three pointer with 7:27 remaining to give Michigan State the lead for good. He and Raymar Morgan (seven points) will be key on Sunday if Michigan State is to get back to the Final Four, but when you've got a coach like Tom Izzo it wouldn't be a surprise if they got there regardless. "I think just the focus he constantly preaches to us during the whole game and during the walkthroughs and just the whole weekend before the game," said Summers. "I think when you win the games before you even get to the arena, making sure everybody is focusing on everything you do. And I think Coach just stays on us with that. And him along with the other staff, they just make sure we prepare to the T."
HOUSTON: Duke and Baylor advance to the Elite 8.
Duke's "big three" combined to score 57 points with Kyle Singler leading the way with 24 points as the Blue Devils fought off a game Purdue squad 70-57 in the second game of the night. Similar to other efforts this season Duke didn't shoot well but they got after it on the boards, out-rebounding the Boilermakers 48-27 on the night and grabbing sixteen offensive rebounds. Purdue challenged Duke in the first half and they didn't respond as well as hoped, but a Nolan Smith basket with seconds left gave them a 24-23 lead and momentum heading into the final twenty minutes.
"I thought we spent most of the first half being stood up," said head coach Mike Krzyzeski. "And I didn't think we set up our men well before we received the ball. Like we were just kind of getting the ball. Their intensity on defense was right in on us, so we didn't catch it strong because we didn't work as well to get open. Whether it was on a screen off the ball or the dribble hand-off, we talked a lot at halftime about setting your man up. So then when you would come around, you'd catch it with your feet outside of your shoulders and your arms out instead of your feet within your shoulders."
Purdue, led by JaJuan Johnson (23 points), outscored Duke 10-0 in the paint in the first half. The second half was an entirely different matter as the Blue Devils scored 20 points inside to Purdue's eight. Not only did they score but Brian Zoubek went back to being the presence that he'd become throughout the course of the season. He and the rest of that frontcourt will be key on Sunday as they face a deep Baylor frontline. Yet before moving on the play of Purdue needs to be commended as many (myself included) left this team for dead after that bad loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten semis. With their trio of Robbie Hummel, Johnson and E'Twaun Moore due back in addition to their youngsters, Matt Painter's team could be right back in Houston for the Final Four.
As for Baylor, there really isn't a lot to be said of their 72-49 pasting of Saint Mary's, a game that was just about over from the word "go". LaceDarius Dunn (23 points) and Tweety Carter (14 points) led the way while their frontcourt made life tough for Omar Samhan (7-17 FG, 17 pts). The Gaels were also done in by their struggles to make shots on the perimeter against the Baylor 2-3 zone, and while it may not be as renowned as the defense that Syracuse plays it's been quite effective for Scott Drew and company. Can it do the same against Duke? It's definitely possible, especially with Jon Scheyer's shot being off of late.
In a tournament that's focused on the good stories that non-BCS schools have provided, it shouldn't be overlooked that the Baylor program was practically on its last legs seven years ago following the Patrick Dennehy scandal. Through all of the sanctions and bumps in the road this program is now forty minutes away from the Final Four, and while it isn't something that they want to look back on right now it is an achievement that should be applauded. "I'm not thinking about the Final Four," said head coach Scott Drew. "I'm thinking about the next opponent and focusing on that. I think that's what our players will do. All year long we've had great upper-classman leadership. I know, again, you've got to focus on the game and not the other stuff."
Game of the Night: Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73
F Wayne Chism (Tennessee) 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Volunteers' win over Ohio State.
G Evan Turner (Ohio State) 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Buckeyes' loss to Tennessee.
F Kyle Singler (Duke) 24 points and eight rebounds in the Blue Devils' win over Purdue.