The Tennessee Three

Michigan State has reached five Final Fours in the past dozen years. Conversely, Tennessee has never reached a Final Four in 101 years of collegiate competition.

The fifth-seeded Spartans (27-8) may have history on their side but the sixth-seeded Vols (28-8) have seniority on their side. Their three senior starters - Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze - are playing inspired basketball in March, which is why the Vols will be competing in their first-ever Elite Eight Sunday at 1:20 Central in St. Louis.

Friday night's 76-73 defeat of second-seeded Ohio State was just the latest instance of the Tennessee Three carrying the team in the clutch.

Chism scored 18 of his 22 points in second half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.

"The last 10 minutes of the game he was really terrific," head coach Bruce Pearl said.

Maze drained two clutch free throws with 12.9 seconds left, expanding the lead from 74-73 to 76-73.

Prince saved the day by blocking OSU superstar Evan Turner's potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

"We put him (Prince) on him (Turner) the last few possessions," Pearl said. "J.P. can make a play in that situation, and he made three huge plays down the stretch."

All three seniors finished in double figures - Chism with 22 points, Prince with 14 and Maze with 10.

Pearl said it best: "Our seniors really made a huge difference - guys that want to take this Tennessee basketball program to a place it had never been."

They succeeded by getting UT to the Elite Eight. Now they want to take the program somewhere else it has never been ... the Final Four.

Tennessee is 8-1 since it began starting a lineup of Chism (6-9), Prince (6-8), Maze (6-3), junior Brian Williams (6-10) and sophomore Scotty Hopson (6-7).

Michigan State is expected to answer with a lineup of freshman Derrick Nix (6-8, 280), senior Raymar Morgan (6-8, 230), sophomore Delvon Roe (6-8, 230), junior Durrell Summers (6-4, 205) and sophomore Korie Lucious (5-11, 170).

Morgan leads in scoring (11.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.1 per game). Summers is second in scoring at 10.9 ppg and Roe is second in rebounding at 5.2 per game. Lucious leads in assists at 3.2 per game. Lucious is starting because star point guard Kalin Lucas suffered an Achilles tear in the Spartans' tourney opener.

NOTES: Chism holds school records in NCAA Tournament play for games played (10), wins (7) and total rebounds (54). His 123 total points ranks second only to Chris Lofton (130).... UT is 17-2 this season when Prince scores in double figures. The Vols are 10-0 in their last 13 games when he hits double figures, 0-3 when he doesn't. He's averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game in this year's tourney.... UT is one of six teams to reach three of the past four Sweet 16s. The others are Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, North Carolina and Xavier.... Tennessee is shooting .477 from the floor during the NCAA Tournament while holding opponents to .399 shooting. The Vols also boast a +6.3 rebounding margin in this year's tournament.... Today's game will be televised by CBS. The Vols are 6-0 on the network this season.

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