ST. LOUIS -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl calls the play "For," as in "for" the win.
With 1.6 seconds left on the clock Sunday afternoon in the Midwest Regional final, the Vols trailing Michigan State by a single point and 94 feet from the goal, it was the only play left in his little bag of tricks.
"We had not run it all year," Pearl said. "It's a play that usually takes about two and a half seconds. It's actually a play to get the ball to J.P., and then he's got he opportunity to either throw it or get it up there one more time."
In two and a half seconds a player with Prince's 6-7 frame and blazing speed can probably cover 20 or more feet and still launch a shot.
But even the confident Prince knew this would be difficult. Especially against a well-coached team such as State, which was attempting to reach its sixth Final Four in 12 years under coach Tom Izzo.
"It's tough," he said. "One second you're trying to get the ball, you want to shoot it perfect but you have to rush."
Nevertheless, it was a shot, the last shot the Vols would have to reach the first Final Four in school history. So Pearl directed senior forward Wayne Chism to throw the ball to fellow senior Prince around halfcourt of the Edward Jones Dome, hopeful he could toss in a miracle.
Of course, while Pearl was attempting to create magic, Izzo was hoping to avoid misery.
"He told us two or three things," said State forward Draymond Green. "First, don't get beat long. Second, stay in front of your man and keep your hands up. Third, don't foul. Especially don't foul."
The ball soon handed to Chism, he fired a perfect strike to Prince just behind midcourt along the left sideline. He took two quick dribbles and launched a 45-foot heave. It never reached the rim, an airball to let the air out of the most incredible Big Orange NCAA run ever.
"As soon as he shot it I knew it was short," said Green. "I started jumping up and down right away."
Said Pearl a few minutes after the 70-69 loss became official, "If it was a little more time we would have run something else. But J.P. got to halfcourt with a decent look."
Added Prince, his voice soft, "You don't want it to come down to a half-court shot; you're just hoping for a prayer with that."
UT Falls in NCAA TourneyTennessee's J.P. Prince (30) dunks against Michigan State during the first half of the NCAA Midwest Regional college basketball championship game Sunday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...