RALEIGH, N.C. – Tennessee won its second NCAA Tournament game in less than 48 hours by blasting No. 6 seed UMass, 86-67, in the Midwest Region’s second round.
Tennessee (23-12) has won seven of its last eight games – including Wednesday’s win over Iowa in the play-in game in Dayton, Ohio – and advances to Sunday’s matchup against No.
14 seed Mercer, which shocked No. 3 Duke in the game right before the Vols and Minutemen squared off.
Game time for the Vols and Bears showdown has not yet been set.
UMass finished its season at 24-9. The Minutemen were making their first NCAA tournament appearance in 16 years.
Jarnell Stokes led the Vols with a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the year, one shy of Bernard King’s school record 22 in 1976-77.
Jeronne Maymon also went double-double on UMass with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
With two double-doubles, the Vols had multiple double-doubles in an NCAA Tournament game for the second time in history.
The only other came in 1977 when Ernie Grunfeld (26 points, 12 rebounds), Bernard King (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Reggie Johnson (17 points, 10 rebounds) achieved the feat in an overtime loss to Syracuse.
Stokes' 14 rebounds tied the Tennessee NCAA Tournament single-game record. The record of 14 was previously reached by Isiah Victor (1999) and set by Reggie Johnson (1980).
Senior Jordan McRae finished with 21 points. Josh Richardson tallied 15 points in his second straight stellar performance on both ends of the floor.
UMass was led by senior Chaz Williams, who scored 12 and handed out five assists. Maxie Esho had 12 points and Derrick Gordon scored 10.
Tennessee shot 53.6 percent in the game including 58.3 in the first half while the Vols' defense forced UMass into 42.4 percent shooting for the game.
After UMass scored the game's opening basket, Tennessee scored the next eight and the Vols led for the entire afternoon.
Down by 19 at halftime, UMass came out strong in the second half and crept back within 10 points on several occasions early in the half.
But McRae scored five of the next seven points in a 7-0 Vols' run as Tennessee went back up by 17 points, 55-38 with 12:43 left in the game.
The Vols went up by as many as 23 points on a pair of Stokes' free throws with 8:36 left, making in 67-44.
The Vols dominated throughout the first half, taking a 41-22 lead at halftime behind 14 points from McRae. Tennessee held UMass to a season low in points for any half (22) and the Minutemen had 10 turnovers and shot 33.3 percent from the floor and did not make a 3-pointer.
Tennessee took a 20-point lead on a monster slam by McRae with two minutes left in the first half at 38-18.
The Vols took control in the first half building a 21-8 lead with a 9-0 run finished by a Maymon layup with 11:33 left.
The Vols and Mercer have some recent history.
Last season, Mercer ended the Vols season in the NIT with a 75-67 win in Knoxville on March 20.
Richardson 5-7 5-7 15, Barton 0-7 0-0 0, Stokes 7-11 12-13 26, Maymon 5-7 1-3 11, McRae 9-16 1-1 21, Moore 2-3 0-1 4, Ndiaye 0-1 0-0 0, Thompson 1-3 1-1 3, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Reese 0-0 3-4 3, Lopez 0-0 0-0 0, Campbell 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 30-56 24-31 86.
Esho 5-15 2-3 12, Gordon 4-9 2-2 10, Williams 6-11 0-0 12, Carter 2-4 0-0 6, Lalanne 4-10 0-0 8, Dyson 0-3 2-3 2, Santee 0-0 0-0 0, Bergantino 2-2 0-1 4, Davis 3-7 2-2 9, Berger 1-1 0-0 2, Putney 1-4 0-0 2, Totals 28-66 8-11 67.
Halftime – Tennessee 41-22.
3-Point Goals – Tennessee 2-14 (McRae 2-6, Thompson 0-1, Richardson 0-2, Barton 0-5), UMass 3-11 (Carter 2-2, Davis 1-3, Williams 0-1, Lalanne 0-1, Putney 0-2, Dyson 0-2).
Fouled Out – None.
Rebounds – Tennesseee 37 (Stokes 14), UMass 33 (Lalanne 7).
Assists – Tennessee 16 (Richardson 5), UMass 12 (Williams 5).
Total Fouls – Tennessee 13, UMass 21.
Attendance – 16,988.
MODERATOR: We are now ready to begin the Tennessee portion of the press conference. Coach Martin, could you please open with a statement?
COACH MARTIN: Just happy with the way our guys performed today. Thought we got out the gates and played well on both events end of the floor. Played together. Defended well. We set our tone early, a physical tone with our fouling. Tried to keep those guys out of the lane.
The first three or four minutes, we weren't as good as far as keeping the guys out of the lane but I think we did a better job and it carried us throughout the game.
They made a run in the second half, which we new they would. We maintained a level of composure and found a way to get the win.
Q. Jordan, let me start with you. This time about a year ago, you guys were playing Mercer during a game probably nobody really wanted to play in the NIT. A little different situation now, isn't it?
Jordan McRae: Yeah. We've got to be ready to go. Mercer is a team that likes to run all their sets and things like that so we have to be ready to sit down on defense.
Q. Jarnell, you guys have been through a lot the last few days. How have you maintained your being ready to play, avoiding fatigue? What's your physical state as a team?
Jarnell Stokes: Well, we're still young. I don't feel like my legs are tired. Sort of reminds me of the AAU days. We're just having fun out there. We're defending at a high level and we're also scoring. So idea rather play games than practice. That's my mindset.
Q. For any of the players, the Massachusetts players talked about having jitters early and maybe it had to do with them not playing. Did it help to play the other day, that there wouldn't be any jitters now?
Josh Richardson: I think playing against a good team like Iowa especially, before we get to the round of 64, is great for us. I think it also gave us a chance to get our legs under us, get used to playing with the new balls on the new courts. I think it definitely worked to our advantage.
Q. Jarnell, your previous career high, I believe, was against UMass. New one today. Just what do you think about that and what was working for you today?
Jarnell Stokes: Well, coming into this game, my mindset wasn't to score the ball. I was somewhat worried about their point guard, Chaz Williams, getting into the lane. I'm just looking at the stat sheet. We held him under his career high, under his career averages the entire game. So I wanted to play very good ball screen defense, but it made this a fast break game so I got a lot of points just off of fast breaks and getting to the foul line.
Q. Josh, what do you remember about that Mercer game last year? Did it surprise you to see them beat Duke?
Josh Richardson: No. A team so disciplined as Mercer and experienced didn't surprise me very much. I mean, I remember last year, they definitely executed their plays against us very well and we didn't match their intensity. We weren't very disciplined in the game and they came in our house and whooped us, so we can't let that happen again this year.
Q. Jarnell, before you left Knoxville, you brought up the point that last year, when they brought out those NIT balls for your practice after you didn't make the bracket, everybody was not in a really good mood. What's it mean to you to play Mercer again for very different stakes?
Jarnell Stokes: Well, Mercer can be a very scary team if you don't play defense well. If you're a bad defensive team, Mercer will pick you apart.
Tomorrow will be big for us. It will be a big test. That's how disciplined we are on the defensive end. Yes, it was kind of it was bad during those NIT practices. I think that gave us a lot of motivation right now that we're in the tournament.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student athletes? Gentlemen, you're excused. Congratulations and thank you very much. At this time, we'll open the floor up for questions with Coach Martin.
Q. Coach, do you think playing the other night helped your team get those jitters out? All the guys talked after that Iowa win that they were nervous and never played in the NCAA tournament before. Do you think that helped today? They looked poised and calm from the start?
COACH MARTIN: I think it really helped us. Just getting on the floor of the game, get your feet wet, so to speak, to play basketball. Because the first time outside of a lot of different cities where it's a different court, you don't know how many fans you'll have at the game, everybody's fans there. Just not familiar with the arena, not a lot of shootaround time.
Most ball players are a creature of habit. They want to shoot around at the same time. They want to do things at the same time every day. It wasn't the same for these guys. I thought in the Iowa game the first ten minutes we were slow, not quick to react to situations. Then we settled down late in the first half, and in the second half started to play basketball. I do think it helped us, getting a game under our belts.
Q. Coach, can you just talk about the defensive job that your guys did on Chaz Williams in particular? It looks like you maybe showed them a little bit of zone and put different guys on him. What all went into holding him down today?
Coach Martin: He's so fast. I think that's been one of the biggest improvements in Jarnell's game with his ball screen defense. With a guy fast like that, Crafty with a basketball, but can score it. You have to stay in a stance and make him shoot.
He mate one tough move over Jeronne. A jumper. He's a good ballplayer. We want to corral him and oppose him making pass. () They had to make long threes and we would challenge the three point shot. He's not easy to defend because he's so fast. I thought we WROEK down a little bit in the middle of the second half. He got the ball, got his head up and made plays.
Q. Coach, Darius Thompson gave you a lot of good minutes today. For whatever reason, Antonio didn't have it going. With the pressure that, particularly with the pressure UMass was putting on you, you just talk about Darius and how he helped you today?
Coach Martin: I thought he did a good job. He just didn't make shots. He did a good job handling the team. Darius did a good job with the 1 3 1. He's more suited for that. He does a great job being crafty, getting steals, shooting length. Then again, he does a great job on probing the defense, making good decisions with the basketball. I thought it was a good game for him, especially with a team that speeds you up and smaller guys defending. I thought he grew up a little bit.
Q. Your guys, I think, have won seven out of eight now and two pretty good defensive performances. What do you sense about your guys as confidence, where they're at right now?
COACH MARTIN: I think the confidence is good. Also, it's a time of year you win, you move forward. You lose, you go home. So it is what it is at this point. But they understand and I guess they realize when you defend at the level we're capable of defending at, these are the results behind it.
They really bought into it and embraced the fact we can defend the way we defend. You can still score the ball. Scoring is a lot better when you can defend. Playing with confidence, everybody plays their role and you want to win as a family.
Q. Cuonzo, before the game, what went through your mind when you found out Mercer beat Duke and if you won today, that would mean you would not be playing Duke at a home game for them? What do you think about it now?
COACH MARTIN: Again, for us, it's winning the ball game. That's the hardest thing for our guys. I was concerned as a coach. But the good thing about it, we played Mercer last year. They played in the NIT game and played well. Our guys are familiar with them. It wasn't a case of we'd rather play Duke. It wasn't like that. We don't take anybody for granted. Two talented teams, two evenly matched teams. Mercer won the ball game. For our guys, it's playing against a very talented Mercer team. For me as a coach, I've been around too long to understand or to take for granted a team's win. But I just want to make sure my guys understood that we have to play a ball game right now.
We didn't come into this tournament saying okay, if we beat UMass, we can play Duke. Not at all. Our guys understand that it's one game at a time. Anything happens this time of year.
Q. Coach, you guys were really able to get out and do some damage in transition and actually beat them sort of at their own game. Did you see coming in that you'd have opportunities there and ask your guys to look for them?
COACH MARTIN: The key is we wanted to get it off the glass and attack quickly. We wanted to press, get it across and attack the rim. Probably one of the areas that we've had the most trouble offensively is our transition offense.
We had a lot of opportunities, don't capitalize on them or we turn the ball over in situations. So in the past couple weeks, we've spent a lot of time with the transition offense to be able to capitalize on those areas. We did it today. But we've got to be opportunistic when you have opportunities to score. You can't turn it over and force up bad shots.
Coach Kellogg, could you please give us an opening statement?
COACH KELLOGG: First of all, I want to thank our seniors for what they were able to accomplish at UMass and help get us back to the NCAA tournament. The game didn't turn out the way we'd like, but these guys gave their heart and soul to the program.
It was a terrific season for these guys. Today, we ran into a Tennessee team that played very physical and tough around the rim and took us out of a lot of things we try to do. Offensively, especially, I thought we struggled mightily in the first half, turned the ball over ten times. It led to easy baskets. Then we were playing catchup from there on out.
I thought our guys fought in the second half, cut it to 10 or 12. A few bounce plays didn't go our way. We couldn't get over the hump.
Hats off to Tennessee. They outplayed us today.
MODERATOR: At this time, we'll open it up for questions to the student athletes.
Q. This is for either of the players, the execution, the results at the beginning obviously weren't what you wanted. Was the energy level what you would have expected of yourselves?
SAMPSON CARTER: Not really. Could have been a little higher. I guess we got on the ropes for a little bit and a couple people had a couple jitters and everything. It could have been a little higher.
Q. Chaz, especially early, did it seem any time you tried to go to the basket, there was a wall of orange waiting for you. Seemed like offensively, you guys weren't able to get the shots you're used to getting.
CHAZ WILLIAMS: I felt like we was getting whatever we wanted on the floor, honestly. We just weren't finishing baskets. Coach came to us at the end and said we had nine missed layups and we were down by 18 at the time. If you add all those, the game is tied.
With the exception of my three turnovers that I had early, I feel like it was more so us, you know, I turned the ball over early. I wasn't really making layups. There was nothing they really did.
Q. Sampson, can you, I guess, explain trying to guard Stokes down there? I mean, he's a big guy. He pushes guys around a little bit. What makes him tough to guard in a game like this?
SAMPSON CARTER: He has a big lower body. He has a strong upper body, but extremely big lower body so he stands with his arms up, so it's hard to get around. I mean, he does a good job out there. You can tell he's been taught well.
Q. Sampson, you hit those back to back threes to cut it to ten. Looked like the team was in position. You guys have come back so many times this year. What went wrong from that point? Did you guys feel like that would be a turning point?
SAMPSON CARTER: We definitely felt like it was going to be a turning point. I can't even tell you what went wrong. I definitely got in a groove after I hit those two 3 pointers, though.
Q. For Chaz or Sampson, slow start seemed to be the pattern the last handful of games. What was the key at the beginning and what didn't go your way that got you into another early hole?
CHAZ WILLIAMS: Like Sampson mentioned earlier, I think it was mostly jitters than anything. We were so excited that we were too excited, I think. We were just moving too fast, wasn't in our positions where we needed to be on offense and defense.
So I think that kind of took away from what we wanted to do, because we had a couple of great practices these past couple of days. It felt like we were going to come out great. Once you get under the lights and the crowd starts roaring, you start second guessing.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student athletes?
Q. For either one of you guys, will you be able to step back, or when will you be able to step back and realize what you accomplished for UMass and for the program, as Coach Kellogg mentioned, helping get this program back in the NCAA tournament?
SAMPSON CARTER: I think it will take a couple days. Maybe get home and feel the fan support once again. Kind of set in for me after the game in Coach's closing speech and just 15 years have been a long time. You kind of get unappreciative during the season because you want more and want more. You get addicted to winning.
But it's been a bittersweet year, and we kind of bitter right now. But when you think about the past and the future, you appreciate everything.
CHAZ WILLIAMS: Yeah, just like pretty much what Sampson said. It still hasn't hit me yet and probably won't because we just lost and it probably will never hit me until the NCAA is over, because I feel like we're supposed to be playing until April 7th. But unfortunately, just like Sampson said, Coach gave a great closing speech in the locker room and he made us all feel what we did here as a group on the court. And everything we did, seems like it's all downhill now after this loss. This is a tough one.
Q. You said Coach had a great speech in the locker room. What did he tell you?
CHAZ WILLIAMS: Just talking about our success this year, how far we came from when we first got on campus. I wasn't here when Sampson and Putney first got here, but I understood what they were going through at the time, once I got here, because I was filled in and these guys told me. So I felt like I was there with them.
Coach just let us know that we fought through everything. We fought through everything and life is about to get real for us, so we've got to keep fighting.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student athletes? Gentlemen, thank you very much.
CHAZ WILLIAMS: God bless.
MODERATOR: We'll now open it up for Coach Kellogg.
Q. Derek, your starting lineup for the game, was that to counteract what you thought could happen as far as their size inside?
COACH KELLOGG: I thought Maxie played so well in the A 10 tournament. Put (Putney) and I had a meeting and discussed it and we thought maybe him coming off the bench with his scoring and Maxie's energy to start the game would potentially be a good way for us to do it. So I thought I would go with it. And it kind of, he subbed in pretty quickly thereafter so it wasn't a huge deal.
I was hoping that would get our press going a little bit more, but we didn't score enough to get into our press, honestly.
Q. Derek, it seemed after that first game, it kind of sucked a lot of energy out of the building, the Mercer and Duke. And then with the put backs missing, did that all snowball together to make a very odd start where things weren't just didn't get off on the right foot?
COACH KELLOGG: Odd is a nice way to put it. We've talked all year and worked on it in September and I think I've talked about it with you guys quite a bit that we have to make our one footers and layups. We're an energy team off some of our makes.
We missed, I'd say, close to nine in the first half. When we do that, we're not allowed to set up our press and get the tempo of the game going. I didn't think we could beat Tennessee in the half court with their size and brawn inside. I thought we had to turn into a track meet. It only became a track meet for probably about seven, eight minutes of the game, which we cut it to ten.
Then I think Derrick Gordon might have got his layup blocked on the break around that time, which I thought was a big turning point in the game.
Q. Derek, you mentioned trying to have Maxie's energy give you guys a boost at the beginning. Do you feel like the team came out with that type of energy that he instills in your team all the time?
COACH KELLOGG: I thought we had good energy. Whether it was nervous energy or jitters, whatever Chaz and those guys want to call it, I thought we were so energized, we missed easy bunny after bunny after bunny to start the game.
And then we turned it over a few times that led to easy baskets for them. That's been kind of something that's plagued us at different times throughout the season, not taking care of the ball or missing easy ones. That hurt us tonight, honestly. They played a great game. They had a good game plan of packing the paint and being big. We didn't take advantage of it.
Q. Do you think that there was a benefit to Tennessee playing the other day? You hadn't played in a while and those jitters, maybe from not playing?
COACH KELLOGG: Well, that's kind of I'd say because we lost, yes. If we won, maybe no. It's kind of I do think there is some benefit to playing and not having a week off, a full week off and kind of working out the jitters in the first game.
But I just thought they outplayed us tonight. I'm not sure if it was because they played or not.
Q. Derek to seek clarification, did Raphiael come to you and suggest the lineup change?
COACH KELLOGG: We had a meeting. I met with most of the guys individually and we spoke about it.
Q. Secondly, what concerned you most about Tennessee prior to the game that ended up hurting you?
COACH KELLOGG: The 37 and 25 by the two big guys. Those guys on tape, especially down the stretch, Tennessee had played really well over the last two, two and a half weeks. That's really what concerned me the most, their size and strength in the post and that they've played their best basketball over the last couple weeks.
I'd say the combination of those two things.
Q. Derek, you guys hadn't been here before, but it seemed because the veteran presence you guys have that you've played with a been here, done that type of attitude. Is the fact that both Sampson and Chaz said there were guys with jitters, is that surprising to you?
COACH KELLOGG: Yes and no. I'd say it's surprising if you're a senior and you have jitters. But maybe for some of the younger guys, potentially yes. I thought the jitters I'm not sure if that's the right word across the board. We missed some easy ones. You can call it jitters. You can call it yips in golf or whatever you want.
But that had something to do with it, I would assume.
Q. Derek, were you trying to get Chaz a curtain call from the crowd at the end? And can you wrap up what it's been like coaching him for the last three years?
COACH KELLOGG: I was looking for a curtain call. It never worked out. I'd say for a couple of the guys that were in there. They fought hard and competed for the last couple minutes. I thought he was deserving, as were Sampson and Putney, of maybe a cheer from the folks. I thought UMass did a great job of how they organized this and the fans being around. We had a pep rally last night. They had a couple curtain calls, which I thought was great for the players.
Coaching Chaz specifically has really been great for me. I thanked those guys in the locker room for the ride they've put my family, the university, the team and all the people involved on this past season. But also last two years, last three years, I should say. We won 20 something games every year and I think Chaz has been a guy that's been able to change the culture of our program with the way he plays, his charisma, his speed up and down the floor. He's been fun to watch, fun to coach and we'll have to figure out how to replace him and keep UMass on the plateau that we're on right now.
Q. Coach, you mentioned the aspect that hurt you the most were the two bigs. You look at the box score, you see Jarnell's numbers jump out. I wonder if you could talk about Jeronne and how they complement each other in the post?
COACH KELLOGG: It's hard to double Stokes, because Maymon is kind of on the other side, just ready to steal you if you go double or help out. They play off each other really well. Stokes got a bunch of points in transition against our press that I wasn't expecting. He made a lot of good moves and handled the ball pretty good.
I'd say the three headed kind of group of him with McRae. Those two are a good one, two, three combination. Their complementary players also know their roles and play really well. They're playing really well right now.
McRae was about as confident as I've seen a guy coming off those pindowns, which I would consider good shots for us at times, because if you miss, we can run. He made just about every one tonight and they made their plays when they had to.
Q. I know it's soon afterwards, but have you had a chance to think of the big picture, what it means to be back in the NCAA tournament for the program?
COACH KELLOGG: I think about it frequently of UMass being back in the NCAA tournament and how long it's taken us to get there. Not only myself but over the last years of kind of building the program and making sure that we do it the right way, which takes some time. And I think the whole university, the campus and all the people were really appreciative of what we've been able to accomplish this season and I'm hoping it's a spring board that we can at least be in the conversation every year to be one of those teams. So I'm happy with obviously the way the season played out and getting here. But also, it's kind of bittersweet because I would have liked to have been playing on Sunday.
Q. Derek, Mercer upsets Duke in the first game and I know you're thinking about this game. But did even for a second, did you allow a thought to go through your head about wow, that changes things or that opens the door?
COACH KELLOGG: When I heard Mercer in the locker room next to us celebrating, that definitely gets you thinking about if you win, you might be playing them instead of Duke. But that team was really good. I watched some tape on them and seen them play a little bit. They were really good also.
So I think our guys knew that if we won, we'd be playing Mercer instead of Duke. But I'm not sure if that had much of an effect.
Q. Derek, next year, Maxie's role figures to change from that of an energy guy to that of a real team leader coming back. Took the blow to the head against St. Joe's, had three to four rough weeks after that. Talk about how he's picked it up over these last few games, especially in A 10 tournament and today.
COACH KELLOGG: One thing that's happened, we've had to press a little bit more because we're in some holes to a certain extent. Maxie, when we press and run, is one of the most effective guys on our team. His energy and attitude have been fantastic throughout the season. He's matured, improved and got even better.
One thing for him, now that I see him thrust into a new role, will probably be pressing a lot more and running a lot more next year and kind of using a lot more bodies. That's how I envision it, kind of like we did the first year, we had success going to the Final Four of the NIT. That's how I see it.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)