Rushed Reactions: #11 Tennessee 78, #11 Iowa 65

Posted by Chris Nguon on March 19th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways in Tennessee’s First Four win.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with #52 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa Hawkeyes at UD Arena on March 19, 2014 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with Jordan McRae during the Vols’ seesaw victory over Iowa State. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

  1. Per the norm, the numbers are usually right. Going into Wednesday’s contest, virtually all advanced metrics revealed that these two teams were evenly matched and that certainly played out on the court. When one team looked as if it was going to pull away, the other team found a way to gather itself and stave off absorbing of the knock-out blow. Tennessee’s performance was absolutely gritty to the fullest effect and I am sure Cuonzo Martin is very proud of his guys. The Volunteers trailed (albeit only by a small margin) for the majority of the second half but Martin’s squad simply refused to take “no” for an answer. Tennessee was down by as much as five points in the second half but finally took the lead with 3:12 left when Antonio Barton nailed a trey. Two minutes later, the Vols re-took the lead with a bucket from Jeronne Maymon. And even though Roy Devyn Marble put the crowd in a tizzy with his game-tying jumper with 18 seconds left, the Volunteers stayed poised and controlled the entire five minutes of overtime to earn a very impressive victory.
  2. Marble’s teammates picked him up big-time, but it wasn’t enough. With the season on the line and their star standout struggling from the field, the other Hawkeyes didn’t sulk or tighten up like many teams have been known to do. Instead, players like Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok and Zach McCabe picked up the slack in the grandest of styles – keeping Iowa afloat with an array of gutty plays down the stretch until their senior leader finally found the bottom of the net. For all the hair-pulling that Iowa fans experienced this season, watching Marble’s definitive answer after the Volunteers took a two-point lead with 3:12 left must have been a sight to see. For good measure, Marble added a handful of other big plays in the final two minutes – none bigger than his jumper with 18 seconds remaining to tie the game. However, if Marble had shot better than 3-of-15 from the field (0-of-6 from three), I think even he would admit that his Iowa team wouldn’t have found itself anywhere near overtime.
  3. Hats off to balance and depth. Jordan McRae (20 points) was the leading scorer for the Vols this season but there was no mystery that Tennessee relied on a bevy of players to get the job done offensively. That was especially true on Wednesday evening as four Tennessee players scored in double figures while Maymon chipped in with an stellar stat line (nine points, seven rebounds). However, what ultimately won the the game for the Vols was their defense — especially in overtime as the Orange Machine held the Hawkeyes to only a single point. The length exhibited by McRae, Jarnell Stokes (18 points), Josh Richardson (17 points) and the rest of the Vols was a huge determining factor in limiting Marble’s ability to find a rhythm. When it was all said and done, Tennessee held Iowa to 41.4 percent shooting from the field and only 25 percent from the all-important three-point line.

Player of the Game. I could pick any number of the guys previously stated, not to mention senior guard Antonio Barton, but the honor slightly goes to Jordan McRae. The senior guard was at his best down the stretch, scoring seven points in overtime while playing solid defense to help his team close out the win. McRae finished the evening with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists on 6-of-15 shooting. It wasn’t the greatest shooting effort from McRae, but he made the plays when needed. Also a big shout-out to Jarnell Stokes, who continues to show a keen ability to put the ball in the bucket. Stokes nailed 5-of-7 from the field, including 8-of-11 from the charity stripe.

What’s next? Tennessee moves on to face Atlantic 10 standout and #6-seeded UMass at 2:45 EST Friday afternoon in Raleigh, N.C.

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