INDIANAPOLIS – After a magical run of three consecutive NCAA tournament victory, the Tennessee season came to a disappointing end on Friday night when No. 2 seed Michigan defeated the 11th-seeded Vols, 73-71, in the Midwest Regional semifinals played before the largest crowd to ever watch a Big Orange basketball game.
The Vols finished the season at 24-13 overall, winning three NCAA Tournament games for just the second time in history and reaching the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in program annals.
Michigan (28-8) advances to the Elite Eight by virtue of red-hot shooting and will play the Kentucky-Louisville winner on Sunday. The Cardinals beat the Wolverines in last year's national title game and Kentucky captured the 2012 championship.
The Wolverines knocked down 55.0 from the floor in the game, including 61.5 in the first half as they built an 11-point halftime advantage.
Senior Jordan McRae scored a game-high 24 points in his final college basketball game. Junior Josh Richardson, who has been torrid throughout the postseason, added 19 points. Jarnell Stokes finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
The Wolverines were led by Jordan Morgan, who scored 15. He was joined by three other Michigan players in double-figures: Nik Stauskas (14), Glenn Robinson III (13) and Caris LeVert (10).
Down by as many as 13 in the first half, the Vols fell behind by 15 midway through the second half before battling to within one point with 10.8 left in regulation.
Tennessee used an 8-0 run to get within seven at 60-53 on a Maymon lay-up with 7:53 left in the game. Morgan ended the spurt with a hook in the lane, to put the Wolverines back up by nine.
Richardson's steal and feed to McRae cut the deficit to six at 62-56 with 6:45 remaining.
A Stauskas 3-pointer with 3:37 left in the game regained a double-figure lead for the Wolverines. After Stokes and McRae scored to cut the margin to six again, Morgan dunked one home for an eight-point Michigan lead, 72-64 with 2:22 left.
McRae's 3-point play brought the Vols within five, 72-67 -- the closest the Vols were since trailing 27-22 with 6:43 left in the first half. .
The Vols forced a shot clock violation after McRae blocked Robinson with 42 seconds left in the game.
Tennessee, which had to win a First Four game just to get into the round of 64, cut the game to a one possession contest in the final seconds. Richardson's runner made it 72-69 with 24.6 left.
McRae's lay-up with 10.8 seconds left off a Michigan turnover, made it one point, 72-71.
The Wolverines built a 45-34 lead at intermission. Michigan was blazing hot in the first half, shooting 16-of-26 from the floor (61.5) including a remarkable 7-of-9 from 3-point range (77.8). The Vols shot 50 percent.
Richardson led all scorers over the first 20 minutes with 13 points, making 6-of-8. Levert tallied 10 for Michigan.
Michigan used a 13-2 run finished by a Stauskas dunk after back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 15-7 lead with 15:26 minutes left in the first half.
Darius Thompson finished off a 3-point play to regain the lead for the Vols, 19-18 with 11:20 left in the half.
The Wolverines' red-hot shooting continued as they compiled a 16-4 run to take a 36-25 lead with 4:36 left in the first half. Michigan made seven of its first nine from behind the arc.
Stokes 5-9 1-2 11, Maymon 1-4 0-0 2, Richardson 9-14 0-0 19, Barton 1-2 0-0 3, McRae 9-18 6-11 24, Moore 3-5 0-0 6, Thompson 1-4, 1-1 3, Reese 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 30-57 8-14 71.
Robinson III 5-8 2-2 13, Morgan 7-9 1-1 15, Walton Jr. 2-2 3-3 9, Stauskas 5-12 1-2 14, LeVert 4-10 0-0 10, Albrecht 1-2 0-0 2, Horford 0-1 1-1 1, Irvin 3-5 0-0 9. Totals 27-49 8-10 73.
Halftime – Michigan 45-34.
3-Point Goals – Tennessee 3-11 (Reese 1-1, Barton 1-2, Richardson 1-2, Moore 0-1, McRae (0-5), Michigan 11-20 (Irvin 3-3, Stauskas 3-8, Walton Jr. 2-2, LeVert 2-5, Robinson III 1-1, Albrecht 0-1).
Fouled Out – None.
Rebounds – Tennessee 28 (McRae 6, Moore 6, Stokes 6), Michigan 26 (Morgan 7).
Assists – Tennessee 11 (McRae 2, Moore 2, Richardson 2, Thompson 2), Michigan 14 (LeVert 5).
Total Fouls – Tennessee 13, Michigan 13.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the University of Tennessee.
And we will ask Coach Martin to make an opening statement and we'll take questions for anyone up here. So, Coach.
COACH MARTIN: Great effort by both teams. Both teams played really well. Competed, played hard. In a game like this, that's what you expect, to go down the wire.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please. Name and affiliation, direct the question.
Q. Josh, could you talk about Tennessee's improvement on defense in the second half? You struggled to get to the 3-point shooting early. But really held them in check in the second half?
Josh Richardson: I think the first half we were kind of playing soft defense. We let them get through and get to the rack whenever they wanted. And I mean, it was creating open looks from the 3 because guys had to step down to help.
But I think we did a better job settling down in the second half.
Q. Question for Jarnell. Do you think in that second possession did you think you fouled him?
Jarnell Stokes: No. No, I don't think I fouled him. But it was a smart play for him to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please?
Q. Coach, your view of the play when Jarnell got called for the charge?
THE MODERATOR: Question for Coach Martin.
COACH MARTIN: I thought he made a good move. The official called a charge.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please?
Q. What did you want to accomplish on that possession? Did you get what you wanted?
COACH MARTIN: We got the ball to Jarnell. Jordan set a screen for him to get him right to isolate him, attack him in the middle, get Jordan up top for a shot, had Jeronne man the opposite block.
Obviously we got the ball where we wanted. Just didn't get the result.
Q. Coach, especially in the second half what was working? Seemed like your guards were getting a lot of space driving along the perimeter, especially in those last 10, 12 minutes. What was freeing them up, what was freeing up the lane for them?
COACH MARTIN: We felt like going into the game we could drive the ball, attack the rim, make plays. We didn't do a very good job. We did it in spurts in the first half.
I thought the second half we were very aggressive in getting to the rim and those were the results. So being assertive, taking the scouting report to the floor and it worked for us.
Q. Coach Martin, did you think-- you attempted to steal the next two inbounds off the offensive foul. Did you think the last one down toward their baseline, do you think maybe that went off Michigan?
THE MODERATOR: Question for Coach Martin.
COACH MARTIN: I couldn't hardly hear you. You said?
Q. Tried to steal the next two inbounds, looked like the refs went to see who it bounced off. Did you see the play from down on your end?
COACH MARTIN: I know our guys tipped it.
The biggest thing we were trying to do was foul, couldn't get a steal foul right away. But I really couldn't see it from my end.
Q. Jordan, just what allowed you in the second half to climb back in it and get within a point?
Jordan McRae: I think in the second half we just played better defense than we did in the first. And it translated over to offense.
Q. Jordan, you said that early in this year you wanted to play under the lights; you wanted to have this stage. The way you guys came back and made it a game, is there any good you take out of this or just kind of how do you describe this, the second half comeback that you guys had?
Jordan McRae: I mean, regardless of the outcome, we played hard. And it was a huge comeback for us. But the feeling right now, you just can't really be happy after that.
Q. Coach, there's been a lot of debate about kind of not a lot of offensive fouls being called. Are you a little shocked that they would make that call at that time at that place on the court, too?
THE MODERATOR: Question for Coach Martin.
COACH MARTIN: They made a call. To give you an exact answer I have to go back and watch film. But he was moving. Both guys were moving. But with the new rule, I'm not sure.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please. Right here in front.
Q. Cuonzo, did you make any defense changes in the second half? You guys were so much more successful there.
COACH MARTIN: Well, what we did more when Jeronne got in foul trouble, we went with Armani Moore at the 4 spot, a better perimeter defender than the other guy we had in the game. I thought it really helped us set a tone, more of a physical tone with Armani on the floor.
THE MODERATOR: Right up here in the front.
Q. Coach, talking a little bit about second half adjustments. It felt like you guys maybe slowed down a little bit offensively. Was maybe part of it making them work a little more defensively rather than playing a wide open game the way it was in the first half?
COACH MARTIN: I thought what happened in the first half, when Jeronne got in foul trouble -- because we do a lot of things through Jeronne and Jarnell -- when he got in foul trouble, the floor wasn't quite what it normally is.
I thought in the second half we kept our spacing and ran a couple of sets we normally go to ran, but really attacking the rim and making plays and spreading those guys out.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we'll begin with an opening statement from Coach Beilein, and then we'll open it up to anybody on the dais.
COACH BEILEIN: I saw Cuonzo going out the door. What a great job he's done with that team. They had a sensational year. And they've got great-- he's done a great job just developing the culture of that program.
So you feel bad because they worked so hard and they came back, and they are really a good team. We know we beat a good team.
Really pleased we could score points against them because they're one of the best defensive teams in the country. Their turnovers -- when we turn it over, we don't turn it over much, there's a big difference in the game.
So pleased to get this win. Certainly it was a lot of drama at the end, but we've had a lot of that this year and a win is a win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please. Raise your hand.
Q. Jordan, could you take us through that possession when you were able to draw the charge; what were you anticipating and just take us through it if you would?
JORDAN MORGAN: Well, they set a screen for him to come open, so I knew that the play was going to be for him. And I just know he likes to play bully ball, he's in a stance ready.
I don't know. I just was there. It's just something I do. I take charge. That's what I do.
Q. This one is for Coach Beilein. Did you anticipate how well you would shoot the 3, and if so, how did that play into your game plan as the game went on?
THE MODERATOR: Question for Coach Beilein.
COACH BEILEIN: We shoot a lot of 3s. If you follow us you'd know that. Usually we're going to take what they give us.
Do I anticipate Zak Irvin coming off and going three for three? I probably don't, but I think he's probably going two for three. But we're going to take what people give us.
I don't anticipate much, except I try to anticipate how they're going to guard us and they had a great plan.
But we're fortunate we did get some of those to drop, and we had some good drop-offs inside to this guy as well.
Q. Jordan, walking off the court, I don't know if you meant it for everybody to hear, but we heard you yelling "mismatch," and I assume you're talking about Stokes inside and you inside. Can you just talk about--
JORDAN MORGAN: We heard all week about they had mismatches and how we couldn't guard them inside. I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and we won the Big Ten outright.
So we're not really soft around here. That's not who we are. We lift a lot of weights. So it's just-- I don't know, it's a pride thing for us. We're not about to get punked.
Q. Coach, you talked about the turnovers. I know you probably haven't reviewed them a lot, but just kind of how much of it was what Tennessee was doing and how much was unforced mistakes on your part?
COACH BEILEIN: I can't recall all year, so many people taking the ball off of us off the dribble and just really quick hands, where they got the ball several times.
And I would say probably six to eight of those points I think led to transition baskets.
We're really good with the ball and really strong with it. They didn't intercept passes, they just got us off the dribble or got us when we were driving to the basket. Did a great job.
Q. Coach, how did you assess the difference in your shooting 3-point range first half to second half? Was that their defense, or you guys were--
COACH BEILEIN: I don't know what we went in the second half, but I don't look at that. We're going to shoot well from 3 most every game. That's the hope.
And usually when we make over 10 we're in pretty good shape. But last year we had a great game with Michigan State we won at home, we didn't make a 3.
We're going to take what people give us. And if you have good shooters, you have good passers, and you have good patience at getting the right shot, you can make a lot of those shots. And they all did.
Q. What frustrated you about them being able to come back and get within a point there?
COACH BEILEIN: I think the way we did it, first of all, it's very, very hard to inbound the ball four or five times from a dead spot. I don't care where you are on the court. You only have so many out of bounds. Only have to do that a couple of times a year-- a couple times a game, not four or five in a row.
Once we expanded the court, Glenn made the great catch on a longer one.
But we don't like to give up leads. At the same time, this is a really talented team. I mean, a really talented team. And their turnovers helped us. So we don't turn it over. Hopefully we won't do that again.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes so we can get them back to the locker room.
Q. Glenn, this has been talked about a little bit, but what was key or what worked in getting Maymon into foul trouble and exploring that mismatch really quickly seemed like you guys went right after him?
GLENN ROBINSON, III: I tried to be strong in the post. I tried to front it when I could. Make them force tough passes into the post. And I think the guards did a great job of helping me out down low by scratching down and giving me a little bit of help.
But I just tried to make him struggle a little bit on offense. And then when we were on offense, I just tried to attack him and find straight line drives down and their coach had to take him out of the game and get four guards in there.
Q. Derrick, sitting down there on the end, I don't want to think anybody forgot you. Coach has been talking about your 3-point shooting. You shot the ball well, Nik with one of the big ones in the first half under five minutes and under three minutes in the second half and then Zak coming in also. Just your thoughts in shooting in the stadium here and how well the ball went in for you guys this evening?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Yeah, like Coach said, we shoot a lot of 3s, but we kind of find the right spots and the time to shoot the 3.
We did a good job picking our spots, hitting open shots. We work on it a lot in practice. It's only right to go out and shoot them in the game.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? Okay, fellas, you're dismissed. Thank you. Michigan locker room will be open about another 15 minutes, I think.
Questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. John, I don't know if you're one to get hypothetical. You won. You didn't lose. But what if you had, can you imagine how it would have been categorized or described if you lost that lead on this stage?
COACH BEILEIN: I don't know why I even have to answer that. Yeah, it would not have been good. It would have been a tough bus ride back, but we didn't.
We've had several games where the ball bounced one way or another at the end of the game. But they created some great breaks for themselves. We had some times, like you said, their run down the stretch right there, a couple of turnovers, and then just inbounding the ball like that is difficult to do.
But just enough to win. But it didn't happen, so I'm not going to worry about it one minute.
Q. I guess to kind of follow up on that, you think about Indiana at home, you think about Nebraska away. What do you attribute this team's ability to maybe make just one more play than an opponent? I know sometimes they've got the ball at the end, sometimes you've got the ball at the end, but what's the difference for this team, I guess?
COACH BEILEIN: It's not just the play at the end. It's the plays in the middle of the game. Today we had, Caris hit five turnovers and Derrick had three. We just played a game where neither one had any turnovers. And turnovers in the back court are worse because they're going to lead to a run-out at the end.
There's going to be plays in the game here and there. The whole thing is these kids always believe and they never stop. They just never stop believing we're going to win the game.
And we get just enough stops. And, remember, it's a real young team. They're experiencing so much of this really on a first or second time of college. The experience showed in Jordan Morgan, he's been through a lot of these.
Q. Speaking of Jordan, did you notice him being especially motivated for this game, and could you describe the impact he's had, not just in this game but in the tournament?
COACH BEILEIN: Here's a great story about him, is that in the days coming up to this -- we had played a really good Michigan State team in the championship, and we'd been in foul trouble the whole time. And afterwards I said maybe we should have double teamed Adreian Payne. We didn't.
So we practiced for two days on double teaming in the post if we needed to do it. I think he took it as an insult, that he thought that we couldn't guard him.
You just don't know how the game is going to be called sometimes because he's had foul trouble in his first three years. He did a wonderful job. But he was not happy with this idea that he wasn't going to be able to play Stokes one-on-one.
Q. Coach, with six players on your Indiana roster, of course you come to Bloomington, you go to Lafayette, you were just here recently for the Big Ten Tournament. With Zak, Glenn and Spike getting most of your playing time out of those six, being underclassmen, do they put a lot of pressure on themselves to come back to their home state to play?
COACH BEILEIN: I don't think they looked like it today. I mean, for Zak to come into this environment where his parents drove all the way from Fishers over here about a 30-minute drive, 20-minute drive to come here, he's an amazing young man. We really think he's going to be a special player for us.
What's really good about Zak is that all those other guys got to play major minutes early. He's had to wait and-- guys that can come off the bench and shoot like that are rare. And he's embraced his role.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the way your guys attacked in the first half with the penetration, how that got the offense in sync?
COACH BEILEIN: That was the whole idea, we got on one-on-one early in the first half and then we attacked much more. We felt if we could spread them out we could do some good things. But then they said the second -- the 13 turnovers, the things that just kept us from being able to exploit the matchups.
Richardson did a great job, really did a good job. And they created a lot of the steals that they had, where they ended up having seven steals, that just doesn't happen to us.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)