Tennessee basketball is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
After a dominating performance in overtime, the Vols March Madness expedition will continue after they defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 78-65 Wednesday night in their First Four matchup.
Tennessee trailed Iowa by as many as 12 points in the first half, including an early 11-0 run put together by the Hawkeyes to start the game. Led by Jordan McRae the Vols rallied to cut the deficit to just three before halftime hit, which may have been the key moment of the game. McRae would finish with a team-high 20 points.
In the second half all of Tennessee’s starters stepped up their game, as all but one of them (Jeronne Maymon) finished with double-digit scoring figures after a cold start. Most notable of the five was Josh Richardson.
Richardson scored eight consecutive points for the Vols to help them go toe-to-toe with an explosive Iowa offense, which was held to their third lowest point total of the season. Richardson capped off his one-man run with a dunk that really sparked the adrenaline from the rest of his team, and landed the No. 3 spot on Sports Center’s top plays list.
Not only was a key on the offensive side with 17 points, but Richardson was a dominant force on the defensive side as well. He held Iowa’s leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble, who averages over 17 points per game, to just seven points on a dismal 3-of-15 shooting.
While Marble was able to hit the game-tying basket to send the game to overtime at 64 all, it was all Tennessee in the overtime period. Despite their hot start, fueled off the emotional motivation of rallying around coach Fran McCaffery after his son had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor earlier in the day, the Hawkeyes didn’t hit a single shot from the field and were outscored 14-1 by the Vols in overtime.
McCaffery said after the game he was really amazed at how instead of rushing straight to the locker room to celebrate, the entire Tennessee team came over to hug him and tell him they were all thinking about him and his family.
While Iowa’s season ends on a very sour note, losing four straight including seven of their last eight, Tennessee will prepare to play sixth-seeded UMass on Friday at 2:45 p.m. in Raleigh, N.C. The Vols, who have won seven of their last nine outings, and Minutemen will tip-off on CBS shortly after the game prior between Duke and Mercer concludes.