Thursday, April 01, 2010
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Tennessee tops Ohio State to reach regional final

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[April 01, 2010]  ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl walked into the locker room at halftime and let his players have it.

InsuranceForget his usual calm, positive breakdown of where the Volunteers fell short. He railed about their defense - or lack thereof. He questioned their toughness. He wondered how an Ohio State team that goes six, seven deep max, could be outmuscling the bigger, bulkier, deeper Vols.

"I got after them really hard," Pearl said. "Ohio State doesn't lose when they outshoot their opponent. If we're going to do that, we might as well go home. Because it's done."

The sixth-seeded Volunteers got the message. After Brian Williams scored the go-ahead basket on a tip-in with 32 seconds left, J.P. Prince harassed Big Ten player of the year Evan Turner into a bad shot from long range and then blocked Turner's last-ditch 3-pointer, preserving a 76-73 victory Friday night and sending Tennessee to its first regional final.


Tennessee (28-8) will play fifth-seeded Michigan State on Sunday afternoon for a trip to the Final Four.

"Coach Pearl yelled at us so much, I think everyone woke up," said Williams, who had nine points to go with his 12 rebounds. "It's defense and rebounds that win championships. That's our motto and I think it definitely showed today."

Though the Buckeyes (29-8) led by just three at the half, they were shooting almost 56 percent - and that was with Turner going 3 for 8 - and had only two fewer rebounds than Tennessee.

For those who don't realize there's more to the Southeastern Conference than Kentucky, Tennessee is one of the nastiest, stingiest defensive teams around. They came in holding opponents to 39 percent shooting, and had allowed just one of their last seven opponents to score better than 68 points.

The Vols couldn't contain Turner in the second half, when he scored 21 of his 31 points. But the rest of the Buckeyes were just 3 of 16 from the field. William Buford (15) was the only other scorer in double figures. Jon Diebler, so big for Ohio State in the first two rounds, shot 1 of 7 from 3-point range.

The Vols finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage, including 20-13 on the offensive glass.

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"I think people missed the boat on Tennessee's defense," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It's one of the best defenses we've gone against this year. How they use their length and the switching that they were doing was very, very effective. A lot of times it looks like something's easy, but it really isn't."

Sounds a lot like Tennessee's year.

Williams, Tyler Smith, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were stopped for speeding on Jan. 1 and police found a gun and marijuana. Pearl kicked Smith, Tennessee's top scorer last year, off the team, and suspended the other three. Nine days later, Tennessee stunned then-No. 1 Kansas.

Now the Volunteers are one of just eight teams left.

"It sounds real good, and we're livin' it up right now," said senior Wayne Chism, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Chism, who seemed to get a boost when he took off his bright orange headband at halftime, gave the Vols a 72-70 lead with 1:39 to play. Turner came up with yet another big play, swishing a 3 from just beyond the arc with less than 42 seconds to go. But Williams, a big, bruising center, tipped in Prince's miss on a layup.

Turner missed at the other end and Kyle Madsen lost the ball under the basket. With less than 13 seconds left, Turner fouled Bobby Maze, who after a timeout, coolly blew a kiss to someone in the Tennessee fan section and knocked down both shots.

Tennessee knew Ohio State would try and get the ball to Turner, but Prince was ready.

With Prince shadowing him, Turner missed a shot from the deep left corner. He got the ball back, but Prince blocked the shot at the buzzer.

"I knew nobody wanted it more than I did," Prince said. "He's going to have to earn it if he's going to make that shot."

As the Tennessee players celebrated, Turner walked off the court with his head bowed.

"I can't give a percentage right now," a red-eyed Turner said when asked if he'll return to Ohio State for his senior year. "I really don't want to go out like this."

[Associated Press; By NANCY ARMOUR]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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