Tennessee men's basketball team beats Mercer, punches ticket to NCAA tournament's Sweet 16

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots over the fingertips of Mercer guard Ike Nwamu (10) during the first half of a third-round NCAA tournament game at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday, March 23, 2014. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots over the fingertips of Mercer guard Ike Nwamu (10) during the first half of a third-round NCAA tournament game at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday, March 23, 2014. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Tennessee men’s basketball team is back in the Sweet 16.

No. 11 seed UT beat No. 14 seed Mercer 83-63 at PNC Arena on Sunday. The Vols (24-12) punched their ticket to Indianapolis while ending the Cinderella story of the Bears (27-9), the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament.

UT will play No. 2 seed Michigan (27-8) on Friday.

Josh Richardson continued his NCAA tournament surge, scoring a career-high 26 points on nine of 13 shooting.

Jarnell Stokes claimed his 22nd double-double of the season and tied former UT great Bernard King for most double-doubles in one season by a Vol. He scored 17 points and pulled down 18 rebounds, the spearhead of a UT rebounding effort that finished with a 41-19 advantage.

Antonio Barton scored 18 points. Jordan McRae added 14.

UT led 42-27 at halftime, and the Bears never got closer than 11 in the second. The win avenged UT’s 75-67 loss to Mercer in the first round of last year’s NIT tournament.

UT now has 24 wins, a total reached only five previous times in school history.

Vols coach Cuonzo Martin will receive no less than a $75,000 bonus for the Vols’ NCAA tournament run. He earned a $50,000 bonus for making the tournament. That bonus climbs to $75,000 now that UT is in the Sweet 16.

This is the seventh time in UT’s history it has made the field of 16 teams, and the fourth time in the last eight years. The Vols’ best finish was an Elite 8 appearance in 2010.

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Comments » 72

allvol8 writes:

Congrats to CCM and Vols! The Dancing Machines!GBO!

Fall_guy writes:

One of the best played games in Volunteer history! Go Vols!

OrangePride writes:

YES!!!! Zebras did their best to keep Mercer in it, but our total control of the lane and boards was waaaay too much. Another great defensive effort and Richardson was awesome! Go Vols... Sweet Sixteen here we come.

threehundredbowler writes:

Fire Martin NOW.Do what Usc did to Kiffin.Don't allow him to board the plane.

AxeMan writes:

GBO!!!!

nats23stan writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Brutus writes:

YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Way to go Big Orange! So proud of everyone.

allvol8 writes:

in response to threehundredbowler:

Fire Martin NOW.Do what Usc did to Kiffin.Don't allow him to board the plane.

Rather you wouldn't

AxeMan writes:

in response to nats23stan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I bet any minute some of the haters who comment here are going to jump on and admit they were wrong. Or start going on about how we haven't beaten anybody in the tournament and we're going to suck next year.

Butterbeans writes:

Now who wants to replace CCM?

STLVOLS writes:

in response to AxeMan:

I bet any minute some of the haters who comment here are going to jump on and admit they were wrong. Or start going on about how we haven't beaten anybody in the tournament and we're going to suck next year.

You nailed it, Axe-there are a lot of folks who just have to complain about something. I know who the usual folks of negativity are. Sad that those folks make themselves miserable for no reason. GBO from STL

cltvol writes:

Our FT %age in this tourney is > 80 and we've been getting to the line a lot. That makes close games turn into breakaways. Defense, FTs, boards, and @ least one outside player other than McCray hitting double figs is our recipe.

As for Coach Martin, there have been quite a few moaners out there, but what program doesn't have that when the team gets off the rail. I didn't complain, but had my doubts. This is a team that has come together and he deserves credit for hanging tuff and keeping them focused.

AxeMan writes:

in response to STLVOLS:

You nailed it, Axe-there are a lot of folks who just have to complain about something. I know who the usual folks of negativity are. Sad that those folks make themselves miserable for no reason. GBO from STL

I left out the third option, they'll come on and claim that it was their negativity that inspired the Vols so they are responsible for the current success.

ut_man1#1427524 writes:

CONGRATULATIONS GUYS GBO!

wilk58 writes:

Congrats to CM and team!!

underthehill writes:

When it was bubble time..I was hoping the Vols would get the chance to show what they could do...I didn't expect them to show they could do this much..and neither did you.. I have thought that if Stokes ever grew up and got a little Howard Bayne in him..he could be awesome..he is now awesome and the best rebounder in college basketball...

willphill#241787 writes:

in response to AxeMan:

I bet any minute some of the haters who comment here are going to jump on and admit they were wrong. Or start going on about how we haven't beaten anybody in the tournament and we're going to suck next year.

Any objective observer of this basketball season will have to admit that Coach Martin changed and adapted as the season progressed. During the first 15-20 games we only played a slow plodding offense that was not only boring but was unlikely to win many games. We did not fastbreak to beat defenses, and we did not agressively attack the basket. We couldn't have scored 83 on Johnson Bible College. Coach Martin changed his style, and he deserves credit for that. We are now a formidable basketball team that no one wants to face. GO VOLS!

kenbomania writes:

Congrats to the Vol's and CM! you all played a great game. Now go and show Michigan how the game is played!

moorevols55#1417579 writes:

GO BIG ORANGE!!!

AxeMan writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

Any objective observer of this basketball season will have to admit that Coach Martin changed and adapted as the season progressed. During the first 15-20 games we only played a slow plodding offense that was not only boring but was unlikely to win many games. We did not fastbreak to beat defenses, and we did not agressively attack the basket. We couldn't have scored 83 on Johnson Bible College. Coach Martin changed his style, and he deserves credit for that. We are now a formidable basketball team that no one wants to face. GO VOLS!

Actually we scored 80+ in 5 of the first 10 games on the schedule. The biggest adjustment Tennessee had to do this season was on defense, adapting to the the new foul call rules. Once we figured out how to play aggressive D without fouling it changed everything. CCM's style is still defense, rebounding and playing hard and smart. His pattern has been to finish strong, 8-2 in the last 10 games of both the previous seasons, and we did that again this season. Better good late than early.

VictorKrugerIII writes:

I thought at the start of the year that anything less than the Sweet Sixteen would be a failure, and I would not have bet a dime that UT would make it after the second Texas A&M loss. What a long, strange trip it's been! Congrats to CCM and the Vols on their great run of success and we'll see you in Indy!

goobervol writes:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

tenacvol#248890 writes:

Congrats on an awesome game Vols! So proud of you guys!!

facultyman writes:

Did I see Martin get fired up at the halftime buzzer!?

no1djkb#278630 writes:

in response to goobervol:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

A bit much but I understand where you are coming from

fannotsheep writes:

This is a team firing on all cylinders. Defense is the catalyst, but inside, outside, free throw shooting, transition, rebounding dominance -- it's all there.

It's not a black and white, all or nothing world. You can love the job Bruce did and want Cuonzo to keep winning until they have no choice but to vote him national coach of the year.

That's where I am and, along with most Vol fans, I could not be happier that the players finally found the sense of urgency that was so plainly missing earlier this season. Why they waited until they were on the brink of another wasted year before they finally accepted Martin's coaching I will never know. But obviously the team and its coach have grown by leaps and bounds in the process. You can see the confidence they are playing with. I don't know if they will beat Michigan, or who ever comes next, but I do know if I am any of the other 15 teams still dancing I don't really want any part of Tennessee right now.

knoxknothead writes:

in response to Butterbeans:

Now who wants to replace CCM?

I do the years ahead are my concern The players took over the team because Martin is in over his head .who does he have next year Stokes want be back

ProudVol writes:

BBB NOW!!!! I don't know about you but I cannot stand the current success. All this winning with class is really getting on my nerves.

I know - we really have not beaten anyone in the tournament - this has nothing to do with a well coached team - rather just the luck of the draw. That outstanding defense we are playing is all on the players and nothing to do with the coach. The motion offense, the team chemistry, the free throw shooting, the ability to figure out who is hot and ride them, the totally dominating rebounding - none of these things can be attributed to the coaching staff. We really need to replace this guy.

The fact is for three years this coach has had the volunteers red hot when it matters. He (we) got the big orange screw his first two years as both of those teams had resumes that deserved an NCAA bid (historically, playing well late has led to a nod from the selection committee). Had they gotten in they may have gone deep because they were playing so well. This team is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. I am not saying they will win it all, but I do believe that if they lose it will be in a very tight ballgame.

I will admit I have been frustrated with our inability to play good ball in November and December, but if that is what it takes to play this well in February and March, I'm all in. These guys look fresh and clearly they are having a great time on the court. Let's win two in Indianapolis and head to North Texas. Go Vols!!!!

ColPhorbin writes:

I admit it... I denounced Coach Martin hard a couple of months ago. He proved me the fool and I'm happy to take my place. Dreaming of a final 4. Mich may be the biggest obstacle left save for UF.

murrayvol writes:

in response to threehundredbowler:

Fire Martin NOW.Do what Usc did to Kiffin.Don't allow him to board the plane.

Guess you missed the "extended (i.e. extension) huggapalooza" Hart shared with CCM postgame.

OrangePride writes:

in response to goobervol:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

You mean because a bunch of people jumped off the wagon during the season, all the other fans and UT must now conclude "we don't deserve CCM?" Sorry, but can't go that far. Besides, of those 30 some thousand folks I bet you can't now find a dozen who will admit to it. Just happy for these young men and CCM right now. They have finally realized some rewards for the hours and years of work they put in.

murrayvol writes:

in response to facultyman:

Did I see Martin get fired up at the halftime buzzer!?

Yes you did.

bricker865#1439238 writes:

My goal every year is UT getting in the round of 64 (or 68), and a sweet 16 is a very successful year. They've accomplished that now and nothing to lose from here. A very nice year no matter what.

murrayvol writes:

in response to goobervol:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

Point taken but you might wanna dial it back a notch goob.

AxeMan writes:

in response to knoxknothead:

I do the years ahead are my concern The players took over the team because Martin is in over his head .who does he have next year Stokes want be back

Never saw a comment like that coming from some petition signing idiot. (sarcasm)

willphill#241787 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

You mean because a bunch of people jumped off the wagon during the season, all the other fans and UT must now conclude "we don't deserve CCM?" Sorry, but can't go that far. Besides, of those 30 some thousand folks I bet you can't now find a dozen who will admit to it. Just happy for these young men and CCM right now. They have finally realized some rewards for the hours and years of work they put in.

I admit I signed it. The petition said " if Tennessee get a new coach it should be Bruce Pearl." I still believe that. However, with the Vols current success, of which I am extremely proud; I do not believe Tennessee will have a new coach. Most of you should be bigger than pointing the finger at people who only want to see UT succeed.

vegasvol writes:

Early line in Vegas puts MI only a 2 point favorite. May be earning some respect.

AxeMan writes:

in response to willphill#241787:

I admit I signed it. The petition said " if Tennessee get a new coach it should be Bruce Pearl." I still believe that. However, with the Vols current success, of which I am extremely proud; I do not believe Tennessee will have a new coach. Most of you should be bigger than pointing the finger at people who only want to see UT succeed.

And now the petition site says:

"Well it was a good idea...thanks for all the signature/promotion. Back to mediocrity."

Never a good idea. Not a promotion to be thankful for. Nothing mediocre about the Sweet 16. Not signed by people who only want the program to succeed.

UT4prez writes:

This team has grown up so much this year. I've never seen a turnaround this drastic. Coach Martin has grown as well. I've also never seen a 24-4 rebounding advantage like we had at halftime. Incredible! Just keep playing hard and keep playing smart guys and thank you for an incredible run so far! We have more to come. For those saying we are screwed next year, pay attention to how Richardson is playing right now. He is our tournament MVP at this point. We are one good post player away from having a solid nucleus next year. I'd love for that to be Stokes. If he leaves as many think he will then we need to go recruit a good one. But if somehow Stokes does return and we have him, Richardson, and Hubbs then we are off to a good start. Then add Thompson, Moore, and some others and suddenly next year looks pretty darn good.

vol4life1983 writes:

in response to goobervol:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

I really respect and like this post! Couldn't have put it any better myself!

vol4life1983 writes:

in response to no1djkb#278630:

A bit much but I understand where you are coming from

I see nothing wrong with it

underthehill writes:

Memphis ..going home..how sweet it must be for Barton and Stokes..still going ..sweet sixteen ..maybe more..

vol4life1983 writes:

in response to ColPhorbin:

I admit it... I denounced Coach Martin hard a couple of months ago. He proved me the fool and I'm happy to take my place. Dreaming of a final 4. Mich may be the biggest obstacle left save for UF.

it takes a real man to admit that and you have my respect for it. I was really disappointed in the guys on the floor at times not so much the coaching staff because they clearly wasn't buying in. But my loyalty to coach zo and the players never changed!

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Congrats Vols great victory.
Get rested and ready to beat Michigan.

Caspian writes:

I've had my doubts about Martin. And still retain a few. The whole BBB campaign, for good or bad, seems to have brought out the best in both Martin and players. I wish it hadn't come to that. It would have been nice if his teams could develop their chemistry a little earlier in the season.

I made a comment earlier in the season that Martin was the invisible man on the TN bench. That he seemed emotionally detached and disengaged. Since the BBB thing, I've noticed a difference in Martin on the sideline. He's up, he's active, he's vocal. He's changed. The team's playing style has also changed. One might even say, more Pearl-like. I don't know if he figured it out, or someone (named Hart) suggested it to him. Regardless, I'll take it.

Really pulling for the Vols to finish this tourney strong. I'm loving having Martin prove my concerns unfounded. And here's hoping for more of the same next year.

TommyJack writes:

in response to goobervol:

FYI:
Post Game Comments:

1. JS: Thank God for the opportunity, etc.
2. JR: (Paraphrased) We played for Coach Martin; Some coaches have nothing to do with you when you are not playing basketball, etc.
3. Coach Martin: So emotional to comment more than a few words.

Bottom Line: The Knoxville News NEEDS to publish all of the names that were signed by selfish, ignorant, and classless fans who signed any petition against Martin in favor of Pearl. Anything less is a travesty of justice, a personal slap to God's face, and an insult to the one and only man who never turned his back against God and has taught these young men more about the value of life in their short lives than the rest of us could ever begin to imagine. We do not deserve Coach Martin as a representative of UT. If he stays, that will be HIS GIFT to UT.

So Goob, why do we not deserve?

knoxknothead writes:

in response to AxeMan:

Never saw a comment like that coming from some petition signing idiot. (sarcasm)

bite me ax

goobervol writes:

Just Saying...

The Vols had every reason to fold and give up, but thanks to the character, father-figure, role model, and Christian walk of Coach Martin
the guys would nor could ever quit because he made them a permanent member of his family and they not only embraced him but each other as well. These young men have been taught what is of real value and what is fleeting at best. Thank you, Coach Martin, for being an inspiration to the team and to me, a 77 year old man. May God Bless you and your family, and may we as a collective Vol Nation extend our deepest gratitude for the excitement you and your team are bringing us in this NCAA tournament. Go all the way! Goob

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to ProudVol:

BBB NOW!!!! I don't know about you but I cannot stand the current success. All this winning with class is really getting on my nerves.

I know - we really have not beaten anyone in the tournament - this has nothing to do with a well coached team - rather just the luck of the draw. That outstanding defense we are playing is all on the players and nothing to do with the coach. The motion offense, the team chemistry, the free throw shooting, the ability to figure out who is hot and ride them, the totally dominating rebounding - none of these things can be attributed to the coaching staff. We really need to replace this guy.

The fact is for three years this coach has had the volunteers red hot when it matters. He (we) got the big orange screw his first two years as both of those teams had resumes that deserved an NCAA bid (historically, playing well late has led to a nod from the selection committee). Had they gotten in they may have gone deep because they were playing so well. This team is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. I am not saying they will win it all, but I do believe that if they lose it will be in a very tight ballgame.

I will admit I have been frustrated with our inability to play good ball in November and December, but if that is what it takes to play this well in February and March, I'm all in. These guys look fresh and clearly they are having a great time on the court. Let's win two in Indianapolis and head to North Texas. Go Vols!!!!

Good call. Unlike football, there is a tournament in basketball and all you have to do is get in it and see what happens. The past two years those teams deserved a bid, even more than a couple of BP's teams, just didn't make it for whatever reason. The November through February frustrations aside, this team is built to go deep in a non-conference tournament: gnarly defense, domination in the paint, the ability to play both up and down or in the half-court - none of which, for all their "successes" could Pearl's teams do. They did catch a break with Duke going down but look at the numbers. With Richardson and Barton scoring like that, and Stokes and Maymon owning the paint, I really don't think Duke would have beaten them today either. Like we've all seen, when they're good, they can be scary good but when they're off, they can (and have) lose to literally anybody, i.e., TAMU, UTEP, and Vandy. Oh well, it's all good now and seeding no longer matters so let's enjoy the ride and hope we bounce some Wolverines back to Ann Arbor. Go Vols!!!

stevefromjasper writes:

in response to underthehill:

Memphis ..going home..how sweet it must be for Barton and Stokes..still going ..sweet sixteen ..maybe more..

Tomorrow is one of the 2 or 3 days since I left the "Bluff City" five years ago that I wouldn't mind being back in Memphis for the day.

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