RALEIGH, N.C. — The final horn sounded, but four players in white weren’t quite finished.
Jordan McRae ventured toward the Westwood One Radio table.
A few feet to the right, The Vol Network’s Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp beckoned for Antonio Barton to join them.
And on the opposite side of the court, Jarnell Stokes and Josh Richardson joined their head coach for some camera time on TNT.
Everyone wanted a sliver of the Tennessee pie that helped convincingly deliver an 83-63 demolition of 14-seed Mercer, sending the Volunteers into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.
And each piece was just as sweet as the next. The quartet all reached double figures Sunday night at PNC Arena, developing a potent and cohesive attack that left the Bears reeling.
Richardson (26 points) took the initial swing, pouring in 11 points in the first 12 minutes en route to a career-high scoring performance.
Barton (18 points) took the reigns in the second half, knocking down a trio of threes in less than six minutes that stifled any chance of a Bear comeback.
And in between, Stokes (17 points, 18 rebounds) and McRae (14 points) — arguably the backbones of the UT squad — churned out yet another display of basketball consistency.
The robust junior forward crashed the boards and muscled his way to yet another double-double, while the lanky senior guard overcame a slow shooting night by forcefully attacking the rim possession after possession.
"There's no magic tricks," head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We haven't changed anything. There's nothing different. They just completely bought in and understood in order for us to be successful, this is what we have to do.
"And they're doing it."
But it didn't always come this easy.
At one point the Vols sat at just 6-4, dropping non-conference resume builders to Xavier, Wichita State and North Carolina State in the season's first month.
At another, following three SEC losses in a four-game stretch, they donned a lackluster conference record of 5-5. Although pinned with postseason aspirations, UT seemed to simply be a contributor to the SEC's national reputation for mediocrity.
The consensus low point, however, was after the Vols' overtime road loss to Texas A&M on Feb. 22 – a defeat that to some knocked the Vols completely out of the NCAA tournament picture.
But while the stunning loss to the Aggies could have ousted the Vols entirely, it instead provided the exact jolt the Vols needed to reel off yet another late season surge – one that's included postseason stops in Atlanta, Dayton, Raleigh and now Indianapolis.
"That loss against Texas A&M – after that as a team, we came together and realized that our way wasn't working," Stokes said. "We just had to trust each other more. And no matter how much time you have, if you don't play like a team and if you don't play with confidence, there's no way you'll win."
"We just came together," added Richardson. "We started playing so much more together and we stopped playing selfish defense. We started helping each other and trusting each other more."
That team continuity was in heavy force on Sunday, and although it may have taken longer than originally predicted, the current results aren't surprising those who victoriously donned white on Sunday.
"There ain't really no (Cinderella) story here," senior Jeronne Maymon said. "We're supposed to be here. (We've) got one of the best teams in the nation. We just come out and play like it. We're one of the 16 still standing."