San Diego State remains winless in NCAA Tournament
Tennessee's Melvin Goins, left, and Steven Pearl, right, defend against San Diego State's Brian Carlwell during the first half of an NCAA first-round college basketball game in Providence, R.I., Thursday, March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Melvin Goins made his fourth 3-pointer with 19 seconds left after San Diego State cut the deficit to one point, and Tennessee held off the Aztecs 62-59 on Thursday night to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional.
The sixth-seeded Volunteers (26-8) will play Saturday against No. 14 seed Ohio, an easy upset winner over third-seeded Georgetown. A victory would put Tennessee in the round of 16 for the third time in four years.
Goins and J.P. Prince scored 15 points apiece for Tennessee on coach Bruce Pearl's 50th birthday.
D.J. Gay had 16 points for No. 11 seed San Diego State (25-9). Kawhi Leonard scored 12 with 10 rebounds, but he missed a well-guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.
The Aztecs, who won the Mountain West Conference, have never won an NCAA tournament game.
Making their fifth straight tournament appearance, the Vols did their best to erase the memory of last year's first-round loss to Oklahoma State — the only time they've failed to win a game in the tournament under Pearl. The native of nearby Sharon, Mass., turned 50 on Thursday, but it was shortly after midnight in his 51st year that he was finally able to celebrate.
Up six before Gay's 3-pointer made it 53-50 with 4:15 left, the Vols made it a five-point lead on Bobby Maze's free throws. Kelvin Davis hit a pair of free throws and Billy White made a jumper for San Diego State to make it 55-54 with just under 2 minutes left.
Brian Williams and Gay exchanged free throws, then Prince missed a pair of foul shots with 47 seconds left and the Vols still nursing a one-point lead. But Wayne Chism grabbed the rebound and Tennessee ran another 28 seconds off the clock before Goins hit a 3 to make it 60-56.
Goins then fouled Gay during a 3-point attempt, and the San Diego State guard made all three foul shots. But Chism made two free throws at the other end with 7.4 seconds left and then got in front of Leonard on the final shot, reaching to the sky and slapping his hands together as it sailed harmlessly offline.
Goins was 4 for 5 from 3-point range, and the Vols went 8 for 17 from beyond the arc.
San Diego State was 3 for 18 from 3-point range.
For Tennessee, it's already a remarkable achievement in a season when four players were suspended — including Goins — and one of them was kicked off the team after police stopped them on New Year's Day and found a gun, a bag of marijuana and an open container of alcohol in the car.
Two games later, with just six scholarship players and three walk-ons, the Vols beat top-ranked Kansas.