The winner of this game will advance to face the victor of the earlier matchup between Mercer and Duke.
Tennessee had to earn its way into the tournament field with a first-round battle against Iowa, which the Volunteers won, 78-65, in overtime Wednesday night. Tennessee comes into this clash with UMass having won six of its last seven games.
UMass was dropped by George Washington in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, 85-77, exactly a week ago. The Minutemen started the season 16-1, but slipped up a bit in conference play. Still, UMass garnered a six seed in the tournament.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Minutemen, 2-0.
Iowa held a three-point lead over Tennessee as the teams headed for the locker room at the end of the first half Wednesday night. But the Volunteers were able to chip away at that lead in the second period, knotting the game at 64-64 at the end of regulation. Tennessee missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game; instead, the Vols shut down Iowa in the extra session. The Hawkeyes went 0-of-8 shooting in overtime, and made just a single free throw, while Tennessee made 10-of-11 from the charity stripe to cruise in OT. Jordan McRae led the Volunteers with 20 points in the game, and Jarnell Stokes tallied a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Josh Richardson netted 17 points with eight boards, and Antonio Barton contributed 10 points in the win.
McRae's 20-point effort boosted his already team-leading scoring average. McRae enters the contest with UMass averaging 18.6 ppg with a team-high 86 assists on the year. He's followed by Stokes, who averages 14.8 ppg and a team-best 10.4 rpg, and Jeronne Maymon rounds out the trio of double-digit scorers for the Vols with 10 ppg. Tennessee is netting 71.5 ppg this season, and is allowing just 61.2 ppg to its opposition.
George Washington took a 40-31 lead over UMass at the half of the Atlantic 10 Tournament's quarterfinal round, which was more than the Colonials would need. The Minutemen were able to shave one points off that George Washington advantage in the second, but nothing more. The UMass defense allowed the Colonials to hit 50.8 percent of their shot attempts on the day, which included 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Maxie Esho scored a team-high 22 points for UMass in the loss, adding seven rebounds to his stat line. Chaz Williams chipped in 19 points with seven assists, but turned the ball over six times.
Williams enters the game against Tennessee as the Minutemen's leading scorer, netting 15.8 ppg with an incredible 224 assists and a team-best 50 steals. Cady Lalanne and Sampson Carter are the second and third-leading scorers for UMass, with Lalanne checking in at 11.4 ppg and Carter at 10.5 ppg. Lalanne is the team's leader in rebounding with a healthy 8 rpg average to go along with a UMass-high 70 blocked shots. The Minutemen average 76.1 ppg scoring, and give up 70.8 ppg to opponents.