RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help Tennessee beat Massachusetts 86-67 on Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Jordan McRae added 21 points for the Volunteers (23-12), the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional.Tennessee had little trouble with the sixth-seeded Minutemen (24-9), shooting 54 percent from the field and handling UMass’ fullcourt pressure in a surprisingly one-sided performance that included another solid defensive showing.
The Vols are in the NCAAs for the first time in three seasons, starting with a First Four overtime win against Iowa. Now they are headed to Sunday’s third round to face 14th-seeded Mercer, who upset Duke in Friday.
Chaz Williams and Maxie Esho scored 12 points each for UMass in its first NCAA appearance since 1998. But the Minutemen fell behind by double figures early, trailed by 20 points before halftime and never got closer than 10 again.
Tennessee has won seven of eight, with the only loss coming to No. 1 overall NCAA seed Florida in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals last weekend. And that has coach Cuonzo Martin’s club playing with plenty of confidence at the right time of the season.
In their tournament opener Wednesday night, the Vols controlled the boards and dominated the overtime to beat the Hawkeyes 78-65 in the program’s first NCAA tournament game since Bruce Pearl’s final game as coach in 2011. Martin had said he thought the win helped his Vols get the jitters out — they didn’t score until 6 minutes into that one — while also giving them a taste of tournament intensity by fighting through a tough game.
He was right. Tennessee protected the ball against pressure by committing three first-half turnovers, while Stokes and McRae led an offense that shot 52 percent in the first half and kept coming up with press-breaking answers to turn away every spurt by the Minutemen.
Stokes’ 14 rebounds tied the school record for an NCAA tournament game, equaling the mark set by Isiah Victor in 1999 and Reggie Johnson in 1980. Throw in Jeronne Maymon’s 11 points and 11 rebounds, and it marked the first time the Vols had multiple double-doubles in an NCAA game since 1977.
This was Tennessee’s biggest margin of victory in an NCAA game since beating Long Beach State 121-86 in the 2007 first round.
It was a frustrating finish for the Minutemen under coach Derek Kellogg, who was a player during Massachusetts’ 1990s surge under John Calipari. He started on teams that reached the round of 16 in 1994 and a regional final in 1995 during a run of seven straight NCAA appearances for the program, but his team never gave itself much of a chance to stick around Raleigh for another game.
UMass shot 42 percent and went 3 for 11 from 3-point range.