4-seed Vols display grit to defeat 13-seed Louisiana
ORLANDO - Fourth-seeded Tennessee fended off a late rally by No. 13 seed Louisiana and is on to the NCAA Tournament round of 32 after securing a 58-55 win Thursday at the Amway Center.
Graduate Tyreke Key, playing in his first career NCAA Tournament game, led the Vols with 12 points in 31 minutes-tied for his most minutes played since December. Jahmai Mashack was the only other Vol in double figures, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, dishing three assists and grabbing two steals.
Uros Plavsic, making his first start since Jan. 17, scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
After closing the first half on an 11-0 run and then outscoring Louisiana 13-6 in the opening 6:06 of the second half, Tennessee extended its lead to as many as 18 points.
The Vols held an 18-point lead on three separate occasions in a two-minute span eight before a 13-0 Louisiana run cut the Tennessee lead down to just five points on a 3-pointer from Kobe Julien with 7:29 remaining, 48-43.
Coming out of a timeout, Tennessee answered with a 6-2 spurt-with four points coming by Mashack-to pull back in front by nine points by the under-four minute media timeout.
With just over a minute to go and Tennessee leading by eight, Louisiana staged one final comeback attempt-scoring five straight points and cutting Tennessee's lead to 56-53 with 23 seconds to play.
Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips each went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line in the final 20 seconds to secure the win for the Vols.
In the first half, Tennessee turned the ball over 12 times, but closed the period on an 11-0 run and took a 30-19 lead into the halftime break. Despite 12 turnovers of its own, Tennessee forced eight Louisiana turnovers and limited the Ragin' Cajuns to just 30 percent shooting from the field during the first 20 minutes.
The Vols led by as many as eight points in the opening 10 minutes of the game at 19-11 before Louisiana scored eight straight to tie the game up at 19 with 4:43 to go in the first half.
With the score knotted up at 19, Tennessee then rattled off an 11-0 run over the final 4:06 of the half-capped off by a Plavsic bucket just before the buzzer. Plavsic had a team-high seven points in the first half on 3-of-3 shooting.
Of Louisiana's 19 first-half points, 12 came from Jordan Brown-who was 5-for-8 from the field in the opening period. No other Ragin' Cajun made more than one field goal in the first half.
TENNESSEE CLASSIC UNIFORMS MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: For the fifth time this season, the Vols sported their "Tennessee Classic" uniforms and improved to 5-0 while doing so. The Big Orange also wore the Tennessee Classic uniforms in wins over No. 10 Texas, No. 1 Alabama, Arkansas and in the SEC Tournament against Ole Miss.
Tennessee advances to Saturday's NCAA Tournament round of 32 against No. 5 seed Duke. Tip off is set for 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS.