The Vols, now 27-8, now advance to the region semifinals at St. Louis, where they will face the winner of Sunday's game between second-seeded Ohio State and 10th-seeded Georgia Tech. The date and tipoff time are still to be decided.
The 83 points against Ohio were the most scored by the Big Orange since beating Charlotte 88-71 on Jan. 6. Point guard Bobby Maze scored just three of Saturday's points but was responsible for a bunch of others, thanks to nine assists.
"Bobby Maze making the advance passes and getting us the ball on the break," Prince replied when asked the key to Tennessee's offensive outburst. "We had an easy job - just lay the ball over the rim. He had nine assists, did a great job of getting the ball in transition.
"I didn't have a hard job, just to lay the ball up. Really, all of the credit goes to him for breaking the press and making those (Bobcat) guards work. I give all of the credit to Bobby."
Hopson deserved some credit, too ... not only for his offense but for his defense. He limited Ohio's Armon Bassett - coming off a 32-point effort in Thursday's upset of No. 3 seed Georgetown - to just 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
"Before he caught the ball I made every catch tough," Hopson said. "I tried to make every shot contested. I tried to keep him out of a rhythm, whatever he did. I was just working hard to make everything difficult for him."
Tennessee won the backboard battle 41-33, thanks to a dozen rebounds each by Wayne Chism and Brian Williams. Walk-on guard Josh Bone also contributed by helping shut down Bassett. He also hit 3 of 4 shots and finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds and an assist in 10 quality minutes.
The game would've been a major blowout except for Tommy Freeman. The Ohio wing hit 8 of 13 shots, including 6 of 11 from behind the arc, en route to a game-high 23 points. D.J. Cooper and DeVaughn Washington added 16 points each for the Bobcats, who finish 22-15.
Tennessee shot a sizzling 56.7 percent from the field and a solid 35.7 percent from 3. After hitting 58 percent from the field and 56.5 percent from 3 against Georgetown, the Bobcats managed just 37.9 and 38.5 percent (10 of 26) against a focused and aggressive Vol defense.
"Our defense created a lot of our offense," Hopson noted. "We got steals and deflections, got out on the break and made plays."
Trailing 16-18 midway through the first half, Tennessee went on a 10-0 run that ended with a Hopson dunk off a steal to go up 26-18. Cooper finally scored for Ohio but Tennessee's Cameron Tatum answered by making UT's most spectacular shot of the year.
With only a couple of seconds left on the shot clock, Tatum took an inbounds pass on the left wing, turned and fired a fall-away 30-footer that somehow swished through the netting for a 29-20 lead.
Tennessee eventually extended the lead to 14 points (34-20) before setting for a 38-27 halftime margin.
Ohio closed to 50-45 seven minutes into the second half but Tennessee revved up its transition game and went on a 14-4 spurt. All six Vol baskets during the run came on drives into the paint as the lead swelled to 64-49 with 8:03 to go.
Tennessee salted the game away with a transition-fueled 9-0 spurt in the closing minutes. Up 74-63, Maze drove for a three-point play, then Hopson sandwiched two dunks off Maze lobs around a driving layup by Tatum, as the lead peaked at 83-63 with 1:53 remaining.
The Vols, making their third Sweet-16 appearance in the past four years, have never advanced past that stage. Chism, the only current player to participate in the previous two Sweet 16s, is eager to change that.
"I've been there twice already, and we came up short twice," he said. "I'm really happy to be back on that stage again. I can't wait to get there and be prepared to play the next team."