DAYTON, Ohio — As the game turned: Despite the contested look, the Tennessee senior guard claimed he got the shot he wanted.
“Yeah,” Jordan McRae said. “I mean, it was a tough shot, but yeah.”
But with the score tied and a chance to give the Volunteers a come-from behind-victory in the final seconds of regulation, McRae’s jumper calmly clanked off the rim as the final horn sounded, thus signaling overtime.
The next five minutes was a pure toss-up.
On one hand, the Vols had rallied back from a 12-point first-half deficit to lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
On the other, Iowa’s star guard Roy Devyn Marble — who had been relatively quiet all evening — had just tied the game with 18 seconds remaining, and the Hakweye defense had mustered up one final defensive stand to force the extra period.
Jarnell Stokes quickly picked the route in which those in white took the upper hand.
Less than a minute into the overtime period, the junior forward converted an and-1 and gave the Vols a 67-64 advantage — a lead UT would never relinquish.
“That was big time,” Josh Richardson said. “It was more than just three points. It was a big momentum play for us.”
From there, the UT defense suffocated the Hawkeye attack, holding Iowa without a field goal throughout the entire extra portion — their only point coming off a single made free throw.
“I think we did a tremendous job towards the end of fighting back,” McRae said. “Just like you said we did a great job on defense. This is a team that scores 82 points a game, and for us to hold them like we did, it was a great job.”
Hot topic: To say the Vols struggled from beyond the arc in the first half would be putting it mildly.
In the first 20 minutes, the Vols shot a brutal 10 percent from behind the arc, racking up more air balls (2) than makes (1). Antonio Barton and Josh Richardson combined to go 0-of-9 from deep, with McRae knocking down the only first half trey.
“I feel like in the first half,” Jarnell Stokes said, “guys were somewhat timid because we went 1-for-10 from the 3-point line.
“In the second half, I feel like we somewhat exploded towards the end and showed what we’re capable of.”
In the final period, UT went 4-of 10 from downtown but each 3-pointer was monumental in its own way.
First Richardson connected to tie the game at 37 with 14:31 to play. Next came Barton and McRae, who each hit from deep in less than two minutes and cut two separate multi-possession Hawkeye leads to just a single basket.
And finally it was Barton again, whose final 3-pointer of the night gave the Vols a 59-57 lead — UT's first of the evening — with 3:07 to play.
“At halftime, we had that mentality,” Barton said. “We told each other ‘we’re not ready to go home.’ We didn’t want to go home. We was going to come out and leave it all on the court.”
Spotlight: Richardson’s start was dismal; his finish, though, was a riveting one.
After posting a scoring goose egg in the first half the Edmond, Okla., native poured in 17 points in the final period, shooting a blistering 75 percent (6-of-8) from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 at the line.
“I was just trying to go too fast,” Richardson said. “You know, just trying to get energy going, so once I calmed down, it came together.
“I think in the first half I was kind of pressing, but once I started picking where I was going to shoot from, it started falling.”
Richardson’s trademark shutdown defense again resurfaced on Wednesday night as the junior guard limited Marble to just seven points—he averaged 17.3 a contest coming in — on 3-of-15 shooting, including 0-of-6 from deep.
“Josh just accepted the challenge,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Not only that, but he picked him up full court and tried to wear his legs down — to take his legs out from under him to force him to make one-on-one plays
“Josh has really stepped up. Even on offense, he just had his mind made up, ‘I’m going to score, and I’m going to make plays.’”
The other guys: Adam Woodbury led Iowa with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Peter Jok chimed in with 10 as well.
Outside the box score: The Hawkeyes’ 29 first half points was a season-low.
Say something: In the second half, Stokes received a technical for elbowing down low. His thoughts as the foul developed: “As soon as I saw the ref walking to the monitor, I told my teammates, ‘Guys, don't be mad at me, but I'm about to get a tech.’”
By the numbers:
1: UT held Iowa to one point in the extra period.
10: The Vols went 10-of-11 from the line in overtime.
35: The Hawkeyes outscored UT 35-4 in bench points.
Up next: UT moves on to the second round of the NCAA tournament where they’ll match up against Massachusetts on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.