Tennessee avoided one of the biggest meltdowns in NCAA tournament history Sunday, letting a 25-point lead slip away before two-time SEC player of the year Grant Williams scored 6 points in overtime for an 83-77 victory over Iowa in Columbus, Ohio.
The Volunteers (31-5) made it back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016, though there were more tense moments than the Vols imagined after they ran off to a 44-19 lead in the opening half.
The biggest NCAA Tournament comeback? BYU’s 25-point rally past Iona in the First Four in 2012.
Tenth-seeded Iowa (23-12) nearly pulled off another one, sending it overtime tied at 71 — the first overtime game in this year’s tournament.
Williams had a pair of free throws, two jumpers, and a strip in overtime that helped the Vols pull it out and match their school record for wins in a season. He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Admiral Schofield scored 17 of his 19 in the Vols’ blistering first half.
Jordan Bohannon scored 18 for Iowa, which never led but managed to tie it twice after falling so far behind.
Last year, the Volunteers lost to Loyola-Chicago in the second round. They followed it with a record season — ranked No. 1 for four weeks, a school-record 19-game winning streak, a full season in the Top 10 — and had just enough in overtime Sunday to keep it going.
No. 1 Virginia 61, No. 9 Oklahoma 53: The Cavaliers finally breezed through a tournament game and advanced to the Sweet 16 with the win in Columbia, S.C.
Mamadi Diakite scored 14 points and had nine rebounds as Virginia led for all but three minutes against Oklahoma.
The game was a marked improvement for Virginia, which last season became the first overall No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. The Cavaliers (31-3) didn’t have it any easier in this year’s NCAA opener and trailed by as many as 14 to No. 16 Gardner-Webb before rallying for the first-round victory.
There was only one scare in the second-round matchup and it was rather mild: Virginia scored the first seven points of the game, but Oklahoma (20-14) answered with a 13-2 run to take its only lead.
Virginia cranked up its trademark stifling defense and the Sooners hit just four of their last 18 shots in the first half to fall behind 31-22 at the break. After a Kihel Clark rebound and putback on the first possession of the second half, Virginia’s lead never dipped below 10 points again.
It was the first time Virginia hasn’t trailed in the second half of an NCAA Tournament game since beating Iowa State 84-71 in the Sweet 16 in 2016.
Diakite was a surprise starter and ended up leading the Cavaliers. Less than an hour before the game, Jack Salt was listed in the starting line-up provided by Virginia. But Diakite, coming off 17 points and nine rebounds against Gardner-Webb, instead got the start.
Ty Jerome added 12 points and Braxton Key his all four of his shots to as he added nine points and nine rebounds for Virginia.
Brady Manek and Chistian James each scored 12 for the Sooners.