March 23, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Tennessee Volunteers are heading back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last eight years! The 11th-seeded Vols topped 14-seed Mercer, 83-63, on Sunday night at PNC Arena to reach to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in school history.
Tennessee (24-12) will take on #2 seed Michigan in the Sweet 16. That game will be played Friday in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With the win, Tennessee will play in the Sweet 16 (Regional Semifinals) for the seventh time in school history. They previously played in the Sweet 16 in 1967, 1981, 2000, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Junior Jarnell Stokes posted his Tennessee-record tying 22nd double-double this season with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Stokes' equalled the mark set by Basketball Hall of Famer Bernard King in 1976-77. Stokes also set the Vols' NCAA Tournament for rebounds in a game with 18. He had tied the record in the second round win over UMass with 14.
Stokes almost had as many rebounds as the entire Mercer team as the Bears were outrebounded as a team, 41-19. The Vols dominated the offensive glass, 18-7.
Junior Josh Richardson tallied a career-high 26 points, 16 of which came in the first half.
Senior Antonio Barton netted 18 points as he made 4-of-9 from 3-point range.
Senior Jordan McRae added 14 points.
The Vols picked up their 14th wire-to-wire victory including six of their last nine games. Tennessee made just two field goals in the final six minutes but finished the game strong at the free-throw line.
Mercer was led by Langston Hall, who scored 15 points.
Tennessee bolted out to a 8-0 lead with tremendous play on both ends of the court. Antonio Barton stole the ball from Jakob Gallon and finished with a layup 20 seconds into the game. Then the Vols forced a shot clock violation by Mercer and Stokes scored on a lay-up. Stokes than announced the Vols arrival with a monster two-handed slam dunk 100 seconds into the game. Mercer called timeout in an attempt to slow the Vols down.
Mercer scored its first points 3:09 into the game on a Ike Nwamu 3-pointer. The Bears tied the game at 8 and 10, but Tennessee regained the lead seconds later on a pair of Barton free throws and a baseline jam from McRae.
Stokes' tip-in with 5:06 left in the half gave the Vols their first double-figure lead at 31-20.
Tennessee took firm control of the game as the Vols made seven of eight shot attempts to grab a 13-point lead on Stokes' layup with three minutes left in the half, 38-25.
The Vols finished the half with a defensive stance that forced the Bears into their second shot clock violation.
The Vols led 42-27 at intermission thanks to 16 first-half points from Richardson and a dominating performance on the glass, 24-4. Stokes hauled down nine rebounds to go with nine points.
In the second half Tennessee continued to maintain a lead of at least 11 points. Barton nailed three 3-pointers in the half as Mercer was unable to close the gap.
Mercer cut that margin to 11 on a 3-pointer by Langston Hall with 2:28 left in the game.
The Vols got a measure of revenge against Mercer as the Bears ended Tennessee's season with a 75-67 win in the 2013 NIT First Round.
The last time Tennessee and Michigan played was in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Second Round when the Wolverines ended Tennessee's season, 75-45.