By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Basketball Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Rick Barnes is now winning NCAA Tournament games with “Rocky Top” in Texas.
With the Tennessee coach back in familiar territory, Admiral Schofield had 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Volunteers opened their first NCAA under Barnes with a 73-47 win over Wright State on Thursday.
“The biggest thing is we came out and did what we said we were going to do, try to run them out of their offense, and against a great team,” Schofield said.
The Volunteers (26-8) never had much trouble with the Horizon League tournament champ making its first NCAA appearance since 2007, even after missing their first six shots in the game. The Vols led 3-2 when Schofield made a 3-pointer with 16:42 left , and Wright State (25-10) went back ahead on the next possession before Jordan Bowden’s layup put the Vols up for good.
“I was really impressed with our team,” Barnes said. “Because we looked at this team, and they play hard. They do a lot of good things. … Overall we’ve got a group of guys that have embraced that talent of working hard, and they’ve — we’ve tried to create our own standard, our own identity in terms of how hard we think we can play on defense and on offense when we stay together and execute.”
Barnes is 5-0 in NCAA Tournament games at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, about a three-hour drive from the University of Texas. He led the Longhorns to 16 appearances in 17 years, with four NCAA wins in the home arena of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, before switching “Ts” and shades of orange three years ago.
It was Barnes’ 100th Volunteer game, and 57th win. The Vols are the No. 3 seed in the South Region.
Lamonte Turner had 19 points and a career-high nine assists for Tennessee (26-8), SEC co-champions in the regular season after being picked in the preseason to finish 13th in the 14-team league. Grant Williams added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Loudon Love led Wright State with 12 points and nine rebounds. Everett Winchester had 11 points for the Raiders, who shot only 31 percent (19 of 60) in their lowest-scoring game of the season.
“Well, I think it’s kind of the obvious,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. “You just can’t play as poorly as we did offensively and win an NCAA game, not against a team like Tennessee.”
Wright State: The Raiders finished the season with 25 wins, their most playing a Division I schedule. They are 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games. … Love, their 6-foot-9 freshman center, had three fouls in the first half, when he played only 10 minutes before halftime.
Tennessee: This is the third different program that Barnes has led to at least one NCAA victory. He also won tournament games at Clemson and Texas. … It was the Vols’ 14th win away from home this season. .. The 47 points were the fewest Tennessee has allowed in its 41 NCAA Tournament games.
It was the fourth double-double this season for Schofield , and his second in the postseason. The 6-5 junior forward had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the SEC Tournament championship game loss to Kentucky.
Wright State senior Grant Benzinger, their leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and the MVP of the Horizon League tournament, had only five points on 2-of-16 shooting, 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
“Whether it was emotionally shooting the ball or whatever, he carried this team almost all year,” Love said. “It’s hard to see him play his last college career game like that. … We know he was trying to make each one, so we can’t blame him for anything.”
RAIDERS IN FUTURE
While hard to talk about next season after a loss, Nagy said expectations for the team and how they prepare for next season should change.
“We primarily lose one guy that has played for us, and we’re adding six, six good players,” he said. “So our depth is going to change a lot. It’s going to be very competitive.”
Tennessee is back in the AAC on Saturday to play Miami or Loyola-Chicago.
© 2018, The Village Reporter and/or The Associated Press. All rights reserved.