INDIANAPOLIS—Everyone in Lucas Oil Stadium knew where the ball was going.
After the most furious of late-game comebacks and a plethora of Michigan turnovers, Tennessee had the ball, down one, with 9.6 seconds to go and a chance at one final basket to send the Vols to their second Elite Eight in school history.
Jarnell Stokes caught the inbound in a familiar position.
Fifteen feet away from the rim, the 260-pound junior forward went isolation on Jordan Morgan. Then a hard shoulder landed in the Wolverines center's chest to start Stokes' move.
Morgan flailed to the ground.
After one failed half-court heave from senior guard Jordan McRae, the Vols' season was done.
Second-seeded Michigan slipped past No. 11-seeded Tennessee, 73-71, on Friday night in an NCAA tournament game for the ages that saw the Vols battle back from a 15-point deficit and the Wolverines narrowly escape off the questionable offensive foul on Stokes in the final seconds.
"We got the ball to Jarnell," UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said of the fateful play. "Jordan (McRae) set a screen for him to get him right to isolate him, attack him in the middle.
"Obviously we got the ball where we wanted. We just didn't get the result."
Asked about the charge call, Stokes didn't shy away from his thoughts.
"No," Stokes said. "No, I don't think I fouled him."
Neither did Martin.
"I thought he made a good move," the third-year coach added. "The official called it a charge."
Tennessee did have one last look — the 60-foot heave from McRae at the buzzer.
It sailed over the backboard. A devastated McRae fell to the floor and attempted to hold back tears before being helped off the court by his teammates.
The senior guard scored a game-high 24 points in the final game of his collegiate career. Junior Josh Richardson added 19 more.
But after taking an 11-point deficit into halftime and trimming a 15-point Michigan lead down to one, the Vols simply needed one more basket to complete the improbable second-half comeback.
"Damn, we almost had it," senior Jeronne Maymon said in the locker room moments after the loss. "That's all I can say, is we almost had it."
The Wolverines came into Friday's contest among the best outside shooting teams in the nation – they shoot above 40 percent from behind the arc – and left it an even better one.
Canning 11 of their 20 3-point attempts, five different Wolverine players connected from long range on Friday.
The Vols, though, were supposed to remedy that by dominating the inside game with 260-pound bullies Stokes and Maymon against an undersized Wolverines frontcourt.
That didn't happen.
UT eventually beat out Michigan on the glass 28-26, but Morgan outshined Stokes, who came in averaging 15 boards in three NCAA tournament games. Morgan led the Wolverines with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Stokes netted 11 points and six boards.
The talk of Tennessee's size advantage became more of bulletin-board material than anything else for the Wolverines.
"We heard all week about the mismatches and how we couldn't guard them inside," Morgan said. "I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and won the Big Ten outright."
Tennessee, though, had practically nothing to rebound early.
Michigan hit seven of its nine first-half 3-point attempts and shot a blistering 61.5 percent from the field in the opening frame.
The Wolverines cooled slightly in the second half, finishing at 55.1 percent for the game.
"They came out on fire," Stokes said. "I'm somewhat surprised we were even able to hang in the game with the way they were shooting."
A big reason for Tennessee hanging in it was its own offensive firepower. In fact, Friday marked the first time in Martin's tenure that UT lost while shooting more than 50 percent from the field.
The Vols were previously 25-0 when reaching that pinnacle.
But Tennessee still had the Big Ten champions – and last year's NCAA runner-up – on the ropes in the final moments.
Even that was enough for the heartbroken players to take solace in with their season coming to a close.
"I'm not big on moral victories or anything like that," Richardson said, "so, I mean, it sucks. But I think we did a good job of coming back in the second half and giving them a better game than we did in the first."
The Vols started their NCAA tournament run in the dreaded play-in game and ended it one basket shy of the Elite Eight.
And despite the heartbreak of the last-second loss, UT's resiliency to fight back displayed one invaluable trait the Vols leaned on to get to Indianapolis in the first place:
"A lot of people didn't think we would make it this far," Stokes said. "I'm sure there were points in the game where people thought we should be down 20 or 25.
"We definitely showed heart."