DALLAS — Tennessee basketball waltzed past Wright State in the program’s first trip back onto the Big Dance floor on Thursday.
The No. 3-seed Vols (26-8) topped the No. 14-seed Raiders (25-10) by a convincing 73-47 count, overwhelming the Horizon League Tournament championships with their size and athleticism. Wright State finishes the season with a school-record number of victories and the program’s third-ever trip to the NCAA tourney.
Tennessee advances to play against the winner of Thursday afternoon’s NCAA South Regional game between Miami (22-9) and Loyola-Chicago (28-5). The game time and TV info for the Vols’ Saturday Round of 32 game will be announced after Thursday’s action is complete.
Guard Lamonte Turner led the Vols with 19 points, and Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams scored 15 and 14, respectively. Schofield recorded a double-double, also pulling down 12 rebounds.
The Vols held Grant Benzinger, the Raiders leading scorer, to just 4 points on 2-of-16 shooting. Wright State shot 31.7-percent as a team. UT improved to 18-0 this season when holding an opponent under 40-percent shooting from the field.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, making his 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance but first with Tennessee, improved to 5-0 when his teams are playing in American Airlines Center and 8-2 in NCAA tourney games played in Texas.
Barnes, the SEC Coach of the Year, was named one of four finalists for the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year award earlier on Thursday with Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Villanova Coach Jay Wright and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann.
There wasn’t much drama in Tennessee’s win over Wright State. The Vols led by double digits throughout the second half.
A 10-0 run, capped by a Jordan Bone 3-pointer at the 14:55 mark, elevated the game past the 20-point blowout status mark, UT leading 48-27.
Tennessee held a 34-23 lead at the half after both teams got off to slow shooting starts. The Vols missed their first six shots before Schofield hit a 3-pointer to give Tennessee a 3-2 lead.
Wright State answered with a tip-in, but then Jordan Bowden scored on a layup to put the Vols back up 5-4, and Tennessee led the rest of the game.
Turner led the Vols in the plus-minus category, the Vols outscoring Wright State by 22 points with him on the floor. Turner’s game-high 19 points came on 4-of-11 shooting from the floor and 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Turner also had a career-high nine assists for Tennessee.
TENNESSEE EARLY RUN
Tennessee used a 10-0 run to separate from Wright State midway through the first half, going up 21-8 after holding the out-manned Raiders scoreless for more than six minutes. Wright State was 0-for-9 shooting during that span, the Vols defenders picking them up full court, and change the Raiders’ shooters off the 3-point line.
KYLE ALEXANDER INJURIES
The Vols starting post player left the game to have his right hip examined in the second half after taking a body shot from Wright State center Loudon Love. Alexander, who was in obviously pain, was examined in the tunnel Tennessee’s trainers before returning to the bench with a heat pack. Alexander returned to the game, sore but apparently effective. Alexander has also been wearing a walking boot off the court since the final week of the season to help alleviate a foot issue.
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