Strange: Vols still standing

Mike Strange

ST. LOUIS - The team that was supposed to be upset bait in the opening round is still around.

And there aren't many teams still around. Eight of them. That's it.

The team that was said to be undeserving of playing in the Sweet 16 is playing for a berth in the Final Four.

Tennessee fought Ohio State for every second of the 40 minutes on the clock Friday night at the Edward Jones Dome.

Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73.

The Vols are still standing.

Well, when the final horn sounded they were jumping and dancing and hugging and mugging for their fans who came to witness a historic step for the program.

"I think we've done a great job of actually deserving victory - we've worked hard,'' said J.P. Prince, one of the heroes in orange.

There were plenty of heroes to share a break-through moment, to nudge a program to a level it had never achieved before.

Prince penetrated Ohio State's defense for 14 points and six assists and got his long arms in the way of a bunch of Buckeye shots and passes.

Wayne Chism was a beast in the second half, scoring 18 of his 22 points.

Brian Williams continued his late-season surge with another double-digit rebound game. None of his 12 boards were bigger than the tip-in with 32 seconds to play that put Tennessee back in front, 74-73.

Bobby Maze came up with the 16th Ohio State turnover of the game. Then, with the weight of history on his tattooed shoulders, he nailed two free throws with 12.9 seconds to play.

Cameron Tatum came off the bench to hit shots and keep the Vols breathing during a torrid-shooting Ohio State first half.

Melvin Goins and Josh Bone showed up again as tough guys, tougher than the box score can quantify.

Yes, they were deserving.

"When you've got somebody doubting you,'' said Williams, "and you prove 'em wrong, it feels even better.''

Plenty of folks have doubted Tennessee. Most of the talking heads on the various sports networks and Web sites have been more likely to point out what was wrong with Tennessee than what was right.

Upset-fodder? That one's been put to bed. Undeserving? Doesn't apply any more, not after fighting back to oust the No. 2 seed Buckeyes.

Sixteenth-best team in the Sweet 16? Friday night said otherwise.

So who are these guys now?

"We're Tennessee,'' said Tatum. "That's all we know how to be.

"We don't care what anybody says about us. All the things we went through this year, we've still remained Tennessee.

"And that's not going to change now.''

There still is a "now" for Tennessee basketball. Think about it.

There is practice today. There is another scouting report to prepare and absorb.

There's a game to play Sunday.

There's still a dream to dream.

"I can't believe the whole situation,'' said Goins.

"But it's still business. The weekend's not over. We've got business to take care of.''

That's what coach Bruce Pearl said, too.

Pearl is as emotional a guy as you'll ever meet. No one embraces history and tradition more.

But there is a time and place for that and this is not it.

"I am happy,'' he said. "I'm proud. I'm proud to tears. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am.

"But we've got work to do now. We've got to prepare for a game, and we'll reflect when the season's over.''

The season might be over Sunday night. And it might not.

"We're not satisfied yet,'' said Tatum.

"We've gotten to the Elite Eight and made history, but you don't get a trophy for the Elite Eight.

"We know we've got more work to do.''

The number of teams with more work yet to do has dwindled to eight. An Elite Eight, and Tennessee is one of them.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 17

FWBVol writes:

HOW SWEET IT IS!!!!!

rockytopatl writes:

If we can beat the No. 2 team in the Big 11, surely we can beat the No. 3 team. The Vols suddenly get it. If they rebound and play defense, they win!

I say they win at least one more!!

chrisw2967 writes:

Im sure this helps in recruiting
I think Tn beats MSU

Down_The_Field writes:

it aint over yet.

tenuscvol writes:

If Tennessee can keep up the D they will beat MSU.....IMHO

Ok, here we go:

UT 75
MSU 67

urbansitstopee writes:

"I am happy,'' he said. "I'm proud. I'm proud to tears. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am."

We love you, Coach Pearl!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Must feel really good to be an "Elitetist Eightis".
Going to feel even better being a "Finalist Fouris"!

Just watched the game again. It was even better the second time. Off to bed now as the Lady Vols play a very early game today! GBO!

tensie2004 writes:

It ain't over til the fat lady sings. JP just put a gag in her mouth last night!!!

GO VOL!!! We are so proud of you.

UTfaninWildcatcountry writes:

great game...awesome win...we need more scotty hopson scoring...

Looking forward to Sunday...great matchup FOR the vols against MSU...

jeffhaga writes:

in response to UTfaninWildcatcountry:

great game...awesome win...we need more scotty hopson scoring...

Looking forward to Sunday...great matchup FOR the vols against MSU...

if scotty gets on track look out. he should not try to hit 3's right off the bat, but drive and get some shots to fall first, then move outside

Ironcity writes:

Just an awesome game. For those who don't realize the importance of seniors, I believe last night shows the difference between a senior lead team and a team lead by underclassmen. Four years ago I would never have imagined Chism being the type of leader he has become. Go Vols!!

Ironcity writes:

I guess it just keeps getting worse for BOkoolAid and his cronies trolls. Every game just confirms what a dope he is.

richvol writes:

in response to jeffhaga:

if scotty gets on track look out. he should not try to hit 3's right off the bat, but drive and get some shots to fall first, then move outside

Agreed but Hopson has to really work on his ballhandling in the offseason. He gets stripped on his way to the basket so many times. He fumbles passes too...it messes up his timing when he doesn't catch the ball cleanly. He needs the weight room in the worst way. His hands are weak. He has big upside but needs to WORK.

mdvol writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

it aint over yet.

"I don't think many people believe except the people in this room".

...later

"THAT'S WHY YOU COME TO TENNESSEE"!

CPF

1bigutfan writes:

NICE!!!

SummittsCourt writes:

This Vol team is very good. They have beaten then #1 Kansas (the overall #1 seed in the tournament), #2 Kentucky (the overall #2 seed in the tournament & ranked #1 at one point), Now they have beaten the #5 ranked Ohio St. & the overall first #2 seed this time on a neutral court. They also fell short by 1 point to then #3 Purdue who would have beaten Duke last night with a healthy Hummel.

Next up Michigan St. ranked #13th in the nation.

This Vol team can win this tournament!

vol_4_fan writes:

These guys have bought into everything a team is all about. They have suffered preseason & midseason losses that were going to be major players in the rotation but CBP & this bunch of young men have bonded together to make us all proud. Sure we would all like to see certain players play well more often & some others would like to see certain players not get off the bench! The way these guys pull for each other and help out really is the reason for their success. Finish this off with the same manner & there is no limit to what these VOLS can do! Go Vols

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