In an NCAA Tournament that’s lacked the excitement it’s known for, Tennessee and Iowa decided to remind everybody why we love it so much. Early on it appeared as if the Volunteers were going to run all over the Hawkeyes on the way to a smooth and easy Sweet 16 bid. A popular Final Four pick, the Vols have been one of the best teams in the country this year and looked the part early.
They made plays and jumped out to a huge lead. At one point they led 44-19 in the first half and it didn’t’ seem like Iowa getting back within single digits was even possible, as Admiral Schofield and company imposed their will.
However, Iowa came alive in the second half. First, they just slowly chipped away at the lead until it was a 20-point game. Then a 15-point game. Then it reached 10. Then everything started to snowball. By the time Tennessee had managed to regain control over themselves, it was a one point game and the Hawkeyes were well within upset distance, all while Schofield was on the bench with four fouls.
Of course, getting close in is one thing, but completing a comeback all the way and pulling off the upset is far more difficult. With 2:39 left in the game, Iowa tied the game up with free throws. If they were going to complete the upset then this was the time for them to step up and meet the challenge head on.
The Vols weren’t going to just hand the game over of course. They hit a big 3-pointer and then rejected Iowa’s attempt at the rim to force a clutch jump ball.
But Iowa managed to tie the game up at 71 and with 14.6 seconds left it was Tennesee ball. This is where Rick Barnes had the perfect opportunity to draw up a play to give his players a chance to win the game with a great play call. Well, that was the idea anyway. Instead, he called a low motion and low ball movement play that led to a contested corner 3-point shot.
Apparently what Tennesee needed was time to step away and re-compose themselves cause they used overtime as a way to jump out to a quick seven point lead. From there they just held off Iowa’s pushes until the clock ran out. Despite striking fear into the hearts of many fans and brackets, the Volunteers survived. Barely.
A huge part of their survival was thanks to Grant Williams. The Volunteers forward had a huge block at the rim in the clutch and then he jump-started the Tennesee offense in overtime, scoring and also dishing out assists, like this one to Jordan Bone (that was nearly a travel on Williams) for a big three to go up five early in the extra period.
Without Williams, the Vols are probably going home early while the Hawkeyes pull off the upset. Even in March, talent wins out and Williams 19 points, seven rounds, and five assists effort was a big difference on a night when Schofield spent the entire overtime and late second half on the bench.