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Tennessee ends Mercer’s NCAA run with romp; UCLA wins

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RALEIGH, N.C. — After turning Tobacco Road into “Raleigh Top,” Tennessee is headed to the round of 16.

Tennessee denied Mercer a second straight upset in decidedly one-sided fashion, routing the Bears 83-63 in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night behind 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds for Jarnell Stokes.

Josh Richardson had a career-high 26 points and Antonio Barton had 18 for the 11th-seeded Vols (24-12), who are making the most of their first tournament appearance since 2011.

“NIT two straight years, I guess that’s what you’d call starting from the bottom,” Stokes said. “A lot of people doubted us, and that just makes the ride much better.”

The Tennessee band had plenty of chances to blare their beloved “Rocky Top” during this rout, which followed the same script as their 19-point thumping of Massachusetts two days earlier: The Voles outrebounded Mercer 41-19 to keep the Southeastern Conference perfect in the tournament.

They joined Florida and Kentucky in the regional semifinals — the first time three SEC teams made it that far since 2007.

“I’ve been hearing that the SEC has been a football conference for a long time but I don’t know how you can still say that when you’ve got three SEC schools in the Sweet 16,” Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said.

Tennessee will face second-seeded Michigan (27-8) in a Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.

Stokes broke his 2-day-old school tournament record for rebounds.

Langston Hall had 15 points to lead the 14th-seeded Bears (27-9). They knocked off Duke in the signature upset of the tournament but couldn’t answer Tennessee’s size.

“I think hopefully by the time (reality) sets in, we’ll all be able to put a smile on and realize that what we’ve been able to do at our school, and for the city, has been phenomenal,” forward Jakob Gollon said. “It’s kind of hard to see right now.”

Mercer trailed by double figures for the entire second half before the Bears threatened another fantastic finish.

They had the ball down 12 with about 2 minutes left when Gollon — one of the heroes of the Duke upset two days earlier — threw the ball away in the lane, then fouled out a few seconds later.

McRae hit two free throws, and Richardson added a fast-break layup to push the Tennessee lead to 77-61 with 1 minutes left.

McRae finished with 13 points for the Volunteers, who have won eight of nine with the only loss coming to the top-ranked Gators in the SEC tournament.

They are in the round of 16 for the fourth time in eight years, and the third team to go from the First Four to the Sweet 16 since the introduction of the extra round in 2011.

They also got a bit of payback: Mercer ended Tennessee’s season last year with a 75-67 win in the first round of the NIT.

Ike Nwamu scored 12 points, Anthony White Jr. had 11 and big man Daniel Coursey added 10 for Mercer, the plucky Atlantic Sun Conference school trying to match Florida Gulf Coast’s run last year to the regional semifinals.

The Bears drew a perfect matchup for their first game — and couldn’t have had a worse one for their second.

They were bigger, more experienced and more precise than a Duke team loaded with high school All-Americans and a leaky defense, carving them up down the stretch in a 78-71 victory that ranks among the top upsets in the history of the tournament.

Mercer starts five seniors and has seven on the roster — but the Bears were down one with 6-foot-11 Monty Brown out with a possible concussion.

SOUTH

UCLA 77, Stephen F. Austin 60

Jordan Adams scored 19 points and UCLA beat Stephen F. Austin at San Diego to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

The fourth-seeded Bruins (28-8) will play Florida, the tournament’s overall top seed, in the South Regional semifinals on Thursday in Memphis. First-year coach Steve Alford has won as many NCAA tournament games in three days as the Bruins had in the previous five seasons combined.

Alford replaced Ben Howland, who was fired a year ago after the Bruins lost to Minnesota in their NCAA tournament opener. This is UCLA’s first trip to the regionals since Howland got the Bruins to their third straight Final Four in 2008.

Stephen F. Austin (32-3), the No. 12 seed, had its 29-game winning streak snapped. The Lumberjacks hadn’t lost in exactly four months.

Florida beat UCLA in the national championship game in 2006 and again in the national semifinals the following season.

The Bruins have won five straight and seven of eight overall.

UCLA’s Norman Powell, who played at San Diego’s Lincoln High, scored 16 points and Kyle Anderson had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Thomas Walkup had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Lumberjacks while Desmond Haymon had 17 points and Nikola Gajic added 10. Haymon’s four-point play sent the Lumberjacks into overtime against fifth-seeded VCU on Friday night and SFA won 77-75.

The Lumberjacks hadn’t lost since Nov. 23, a 66-58 defeat at East Tennessee State. After Wichita State lost to Kentucky to have its 35-game winning streak snapped, SFA’s 29-game streak became the nation’s longest, for about 3 hours.

The Lumberjacks head back to Nacogdoches, Texas, having earned the first NCAA tournament victory in school history. They are 1-2 overall in the tournament.

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