ST. LOUIS -- The irony of what was likely
As the buzzer blared and joyous Volunteers whooped and pranced just feet away, a seated Turner blew off a helping hand from teammate
Turner scored 21 of his team's 31 points after the break, but the Vols used 20 offensive rebounds and a 50-22 advantage in the paint to book a spot in Sunday's regional final against Michigan State. It was a victory for the better team, one that used all of its resources to great effect, especially its size.
"Every run that we made was when we went inside. Our guards made great passes and we played great defense," said center
The Vols' post tandem of
It was just monotonous domination. Make, miss, tip-in, repeat. Ohio State had no answer for the force, and the chemistry, of the Vols' bigs.
"We know each other's moves so well, whichever way he turns, I'm going to the other side," said Chism. "We've done it so much in practice, that we know which way the ball's going to come off the rim."
What will go less noticed was the pair's defensive contributions, especially those of Chism. Facing undersized power forward
"I think people missed the boat on Tennessee's defense," said Ohio State coach
After halftime, nothing looked easy for the Buckeyes, but that wasn't the case in the first 20 minutes, where Ohio State shot almost 56 percent.
"I challenged their toughness," Pearl said of his halftime talk. "I said I thought they were intimidated early in that game, and we were not the more physical team in the first half.
"I'm proud of the fact that we got the ball inside [in the second half]," Pearl added. "It's one thing to say you have the advantage and it's another thing to have the patience to pound it in there."
The battle in the paint should be an operative theme on Sunday when the Vols take on Michigan State, one of the nation's most dominant rebounding teams at both ends of the floor. The Spartans are sixth in the nation on the offensive glass and 22nd on the defensive end, adding up to a huge +9.0 rebounding margin this season. Even without leading
Williams, though, is already thinking ahead, not just to the Elite Eight, but beyond, and to the light that might shine on the Tennessee men's program and its bigs.
"People doubt our frontcourt every game, but I mean we've been outplaying people a lot this season," Williams said. "It should be talked about, but it's not. Maybe if we win a national championship, people will talk about it."