Tennessee survives late scare from Louisiana for first-round NCAA Tournament win
Tennessee sure made it interesting, but the No. 4 seed Volunteers (23-10) survived an upset-minded Louisiana team Thursday for a 58-55 first-round victory at the Amway Center in Orlando.
The Vols will face No. 5 seed Duke — winners of 10 straight — on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Tennessee shot 46% for the game but failed to hit a shot from the field at any point in the final 5:31 of the game. A jumper from Jahmai Mashack put UT up by 7 points. A pair of free throws 34 seconds later put the Vols up by 9 with 4:57 to play.
From then on, Louisiana just chipped away at the lead. A pair of 3s from the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Jalen Dalcourt brought Louisiana within 5 points with just 70 seconds on the clock. Free throws from Kobe Julien with 23 seconds left clawed Louisiana within 3.
Tennessee missed 5 free throws in the final 5 minutes, any of which could have helped with coach Rick Barnes’ anxiety as his group tried to stave off another double-digit-seed upset on a day full of them.
Louisiana was just unable to make up that last little bit of ground.
The Vols opened up play with streaky stretches of brilliance in the first half. Over a 3-minute span midway through the first half, they turned an 11-10 deficit into a 19-11 lead. Then, over the next 6 minutes, Louisiana used an 8-0 run to tie the game. UT was able to close the final 4:42 of the first half on an 11-0 run, though, and took a 30-19 lead into the locker room.
Tennessee opened up the second half by outscoring Louisiana 13-6 over the first 6 minutes and change. The lead grew to as many as 18 points before Louisiana punched back with a 13-0 run of its own to get within 5. Julien scored 11 of his 15 points over that 3-minute stretch.
Tyreke Key led the Vols in scoring, with 12 points and 4 boards in 31 minutes. Mashack added 11 points and 3 assists. The Vols had 16 assists on 21 makes, but they also had 18 turnovers.
Louisiana was led by 16 points from Jordan Brown.