After all, they were up by 20 points ten minutes into the game, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were making things look incredibly easy, and the issues that the Vols faced against Colgate on Friday seemed to be in the rear view.
Then, the second half happened.
Jordan Bohannon and the Hawkeyes continued to chip away at the 21 point deficit and by the two minute mark, the game was tied. The teams would trade blows down the stretch, and Iowa’s Joe Weiskamp would hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds to go to send the game to overtime, tied at 71. Tennessee’s win probability at the end of the first half was 99.1%, so for the game to go to overtime was rather incredible. It was remeniscent of last year’s Cincinnati-Nevada round of 32 matchup when the Bearcats led by 22 with 10 minutes to play, but lost the game after an amazing comeback.
Unlike that game, though, this one was just sent to overtime. Despite the half of bad play and adversity, Tennessee still had to just be the better team than Iowa for a five minute stretch. With 11 of their 12 points coming from Grant Williams and Jordan Bone, the Vols hung on and managed to pull out an 83-77 victory to advance to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2014, and eighth overall in program history.
At the end of the day, all that matters in the NCAA Tournament is that you win the game. While Rick Barnes and the Vols certainly would have rather cruised to an easy victory than go through that dreadful second half, it’s in the past now, and the focus moves to Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers.