DAYTON, Ohio -- With Jarnell Stokes using all of his 280 pounds to get an advantage inside, Tennessee pulled of the first last-minute comeback of the NCAA tournament.
Stokes dominated inside as the Volunteers finally caught up in the closing minutes of regulation, then opened overtime with a three-point play that set up a 78-65 victory over Iowa on Wednesday night, finishing off the First Four.
Local connections in NCAA TournamentThere are 68 teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and here are the ones with former suburban stars from high school teams covered by the Daily Herald:
ConnecticutRyan Boatright (East Aurora): The 6-0 junior guard is averaging 31.6 minutes per game for the Huskies, with 11.8 ppg and 116 assists in 33 games.
DaytonEddie Eshoo (Benet): A 6-foot freshman, he has not played this season.
Bobby Wehrli (Benet): The 6-8 sophomore has appeared in two games this season.
Eastern KentuckyMarcus Lewis (Streamwood): The highflying 6-4 guard is Eastern Kentucky's third-leading scorer at 9.9 ppg and is slated to appear in the slam dunk contest during the Final Four.
MichiganBrad Anlauf (Hinsdale Central): A member of the football team as a freshman, the 6-4 Anlauf switched to hoops this season and played in eight games.
North Dakota StateKory Brown (Elgin): The 6-4 sophomore averages 6.8 ppg and has started 63 of 65 games in two years at the school.
Saint LouisDwayne Evans (Neuqua Valley): The 6-6 senior led the Billikens in both scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounds (6.4) for the second straight season. One of 10 finalists for national Senior CLASS Award, which considers athletic and academic achievement.
TennesseeQuinton Chievous (Notre Dame): Son of former Missouri star Derrick Chievous averaged 2.5 points for the Volunteers this season.
WisconsinBen Brust (Mundelein): Senior guard is the Badgers' second-leading scorer at 12.9 ppg. He was Wisconsin's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Duje Dukan (Deerfield): A 6-9 junior, son of Bulls' European scout Ivica Dukan appeared in every game this season.
Frank Kaminsky (Benet): Named first-team all-Big Ten after stellar junior season. The 7-foot center averaged 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.
WoffordLee Skinner (Glenbard East): The 6-6 junior is Wofford's third-leading scorer at 11.2 points and top rebounder with 8.6 per game.
The Volunteers (22-12) head to Raleigh, N.C., where they'll play sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Friday in the Midwest Regional.
"I told our guys we've been through everything this season, keep your composure down the stretch," said coach Cuonzo Martin, who got his first NCAA tournament win in his third season at Tennessee. "Find ways to win the ball game."
They found a very improbable way.
Tennessee didn't lead until Antonio Barton's 3-pointer put the Vols up 59-57 with 3:05 left regulation. There were five lead changes before the Vols' Jordan McRae missed a jumper missed at the buzzer, leaving it tied at 64.
Stokes' three-point play was the key moment in his 18-point, 13-rebound performance, putting the Volunteers ahead to stay. Tennessee's highly regarded defense took it from there, holding Iowa (21-13) to one free throw. The Hawkeyes missed all eight of their shots from the field in overtime.
It was a tough ending to a long and stressful day for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. He started the day in Iowa with his teenage son, Patrick, who had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. His assistant coaches led the Hawkeyes through a meeting and their final practice, and McCaffery was back by game time.
McRae led the Volunteers with 20 points and Josh Richardson added 17. Adam Woodbury had 16 points for Iowa, which got a subpar performance from its leading scorer. Roy Devyn Marble was only 3 of 15 from the field for seven points, matching his season low.
The ending will sting the Hawkeyes for a long time.
They switched defenses and opened the game with a 16-4 run. The Hawkeyes led 29-26 at halftime and kept swatting away the Volunteers' runs until the last few minutes of regulation.
Marble's basket tied it at 64, and he was guarding McCrae when he missed his fade-away shot at the buzzer sending it to overtime.
Tennessee got an at-large bid by closing the season with a defensive flourish. The Volunteers won five straight before losing to No. 1 Florida 56-49 in the Southeastern Conference tournament. They gave up 61.1 points per game, second only to Florida in the SEC, and allowed an average of only 47.4 points in the last four games.
In overtime, that defense decided it.
Iowa, making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006, finished the season with seven losses in its last eight games.