Tennessee doubles down, beats UMass

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Tennessee made sure it stayed aggressive after creating a double-figure lead against sixth-seeded Massachusetts in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional second round Friday at PNC Arena.

Forward Jarnell Stokes scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half as the 11th-seeded Volunteers blistered Massachusetts, 86-67.

Guard Jordan McRae scored 21 points and guard Josh Richardson added 15 points for the Volunteers, who shot 53.6 percent from the field.

“We pushed the ball on the break and that was big for us,” said Stokes, who scored 12 points on free throws and also had 14 rebounds.

Forward Jeronne Maymon chipped in with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

“We were in attack mode,” Richardson said. “We had to be.”

Tennessee (23-12) faces 14th-seeded Mercer, which stunned Duke in the day’s first game, in the third round Sunday.

Tennessee has won seven of its last eight games, including an NCAA First Four game in overtime two nights earlier against Iowa. The only loss during that stretch came to top-ranked Florida.

Forward Maxie Esho and guard Chaz Williams each had 12 points and guard Derrick Gordon added 10 points for UMass (24-9), which was in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.

“We ran into a Tennessee team that played very physical and tough around the rim,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

The Minutemen trimmed a 20-point deficit to 46-36 with more than 14 minutes left, aided by two 3-pointers from forward Samson Carter. He didn’t take a shot in 15 first-half minutes, and those were two-thirds of the successful 3-point shots for the Minutemen.

“We definitely felt like it was going to be a turning point,” Carter said of his shots. “I can’t even tell you what went wrong.”

McRae provided a response for Tennessee, converting on a jumper before completing a three-point play as part of a 7-0 spurt as the Volunteers began to rebuild their advantage.

UMass lost four of its final six games.

Tennessee broke out to a comfortable lead in the first half, holding a 41-22 halftime lead.

McRae had 14 first-half points, including a 3-pointer seconds before the horn. He made 6-of-10 shots from the field in the opening half.

UMass shot 33.3 percent (10-for-30) from the field in the first half, missing each of its three 3-point shots. The Minutemen were hurt by 10 turnovers before the break, with Tennessee cashing them in for 11 points.

The Volunteers held a double-figure lead not eight minutes into the game. The margin grew to 20 points about nine minutes later.

NOTES: These teams met three times previously, with Tennessee winning each of those. The most-recent game was last year in Puerto Rico. … UMass G Chaz Williams entered the tournament with 15 double-digit assist games, tying a school record. … Tennessee F Jarnell Stokes has 21 double-doubles, ranking third nationally in that category. He has a double-double in both NCAA Tournament games this week.