Vols solve Buckeyes, earn Elite Eight spot

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 12:17am
Staff Reports

One Evan Turner is pretty good, but five Tennessee Volunteers were even better Friday night.

Brian Williams scored the go-ahead basket on a tip-in with 32 seconds left and J.P. Prince blocked a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, leading UT past 2-seed Ohio State 76-73 and into the NCAA tournament's round of eight for the first time.

Wayne Chism finished with 22 points — all but four in the second half — and 11 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Volunteers (28-8), who pulled out a back-and-forth tussle in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

As the final buzzer sounded, Tennessee players let out screams of joy and sprinted onto the court.

Few expected this from the Vols considering where they were on Jan. 1. Returning leading scorer Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team and Williams, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were suspended after a gun and marijuana were found during traffic stop.

But nine days later, Tennessee stunned then-No. 1 Kansas, and the Vols emerged as an even stronger team. Now, they're one win from the Final Four.

"It sounds real good, and we're livin' it up right now," Chism said.

Tennessee will play Sunday against Michigan State, the fifth-seed, after the Spartans topple potential Cinderella, Northern Iowa.

For the Buckeyes, it's an opportunity lost. No one appeared to benefit more than Ohio State (29-8) when No. 1 overall seed Kansas was upset by Northern Iowa in the second round. Add in third-seeded Georgetown's first-round loss and fourth-seeded Maryland's loss last weekend, and Ohio State had what looked like a clear path to its second Final Four in four years.

To get there, though, the Buckeyes needed more than Turner, a leading contender for national player of the year honors.

"I told our team, `It's our team vs. their six," said Bruce Pearl, UT's coach. "We were a better 10 than their six."

Turner finished with 31 points, 21 in the second half, but the rest of the Buckeyes were just 3 of 16 from the field in the second half. Jon Diebler, so big for Ohio State in the first two rounds, shot 1 of 7 from 3-point range.

Ohio State had won four of its previous five meetings against Tennessee, including a matchup in the 2007 regional semifinals.