In the same style they finished the regular season, the Tennessee Volunteers dominated the No. 6 seed UMass Minutemen.
It was again the Vols’ starters that paved the way throughout the entire game on the scoreboard. Jarnell Stokes led all scorers with a career-high 26 points, as well as 14 rebounds to haul in his 21st double-double of the season. By no surprise Jordan McRae was right on pace with Stokes as he dropped 21 points for the Vols, including yet another Sports Center Top 10 worthy throw-down.
McRae and Stokes both combined for over half of Tennessee’s points as they went on defeat the Minutemen 86-67 on Friday afternoon in Raleigh, N.C.
Most impressive about the Vols’ dominating victory was their inability to hit shots from outside. Only two-out-of-14 shots fell from beyond-the-arc for the men in orange. Instead, the Vols took a slightly different approach to build and sustain their lead over UMass, and beat the Minutemen at their own game with multiple transition buckets. Tennessee outscored UMass 31 to eight in transition, despite being accustomed to playing a more relaxed style on the offensive end.
Jeronne Maymon and Josh Richardson also had solid performances to help lift the Vols to victory. Richardson finished with 15 points on an accurate five-of-seven shooting from the field, including a perfect five-of-five from inside the three-point line.
Maymon dropped 11 points and pulled in 11 boards to also bring in a double-double just like Stokes. The two together were a force on the boards, and on the inside as a whole that the Minutemen had no answer for.
Tennessee was able to use all of these weapons to build a 19-point lead by halftime that they never relinquished. Now they’ll look to send Tennessee basketball into its fifth ever Sweet 16 appearance, and first since back-to-back appearances in 2007 and 2008. However, to do so they’ll have to take down a Mercer team that ended their season a year ago in the NIT.
Mercer pulled off what may have been the upset of the tournament Friday by defeating heavily favored Duke 78-71. Like a season ago, Tennessee will enter their matchup with the Bears riding a successful string of wins, as they’ve won eight of their last 10 games. Last year the Vols had won nine of their last 11 before Mercer ended their season with a 75-67 victory in Knoxville, Tenn.
The No. 11 seed Vols will tip-off against the No. 14 seed Mercer Bears at 6:10 p.m. Friday evening from Raleigh, N.C., on TNT for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.