CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An air of finality accompanied Bruce Pearl, the Volunteers coach who faces accusations that he violated NCAA recruiting rules and who has acknowledged that he lied to investigators, when he led his team onto the floor to face Michigan on Friday.
It may have been the last time Pearl wore his orange-striped tie and suspenders. The Vols surged early, faded and then buckled in the second half as No. 8 seed Michigan pulled away 75-45. Zack Novak had 14 points for Michigan (21-13), including three 3-pointers during a 19-2 run to open the second half.
This week Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he was not certain that Pearl would be back next season. That statement made Pearl's job security the focus here and left the Vols straining to concentrate on basketball.
Asked if Hamilton's comments were a distraction, guard Melvin Goins said, "I don't think it had anything to do with us on the court, but of course, it was a distraction off the court."
"We just didn't play with no heart out there," said freshman forward Tobias Harris, who had 19 points in the first half, none in the second half when the No. 9-seeded Vols (19-15) were outscored 42-16. "We rushed too many shots and, you know, basically just quit."
It was hard for Pearl to dispute Tobias' assessment.
"Well, when you get beat (42-16) in a half of basketball, we didn't play with heart and obviously we were terribly discouraged by the margin, the quality of Michigan's play, the poorness of our own play and we did let down," Pearl said. "We unraveled."
Pearl is to face the NCAA committee on infractions in June to plead his case. He'll also have to plead with Hamilton and others at Tennessee not to fire him.
"We've got to go before the committee on infractions in June, and it's going to be difficult," Pearl said. "We made mistakes, we're going to try and be accountable for those mistakes. My goal and my desire is to be the basketball coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time."
duke 87, hampton 45: Kyrie Irving returned for the top-seeded Blue Devils (31-4) and helped give Mike Krzyzewski his 899th career victory in Charlotte, N.C. Krzyzewski can join Bob Knight (902) as Division I coaches with 900 wins on Sunday, when Duke plays Michigan.
Irving playing his first game in three months, scored 14 against the 16th-seeded Pirates (24-9). The freshman point guard injured his right big toe on Dec. 4
"I haven't played in three months, so this game was really nerve-racking," Irving said. "But once I got the butterflies out, I started to play really well."
Hampton's top three scorers — Darrion Pellum, Kwame Morgan and Charles Funches — were a combined 9-for-29.
"Every college team (watches) TV and says, 'I want to play Duke, I want to see what it's like to play Duke,' " Hampton coach Edward Joyner said. "We sure found out."
arizona 77, Memphis 75: Derrick Williams had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and blocked a potential tying shot in the final seconds as the fifth-seeded Wildcats (28-7) won in Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Jackson hit the first of two free throws with five seconds left, then missed the second to give the Tigers a shot at the tie. Wesley Witherspoon grabbed the offensive rebound at the right block, but Williams came over to swat his shot away.
"It's as if he's playing in his backyard," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said of Williams.
The 12th-seeded Tigers (25-10) had their lowest seed ever.
"We're not some Cinderella story," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "My vision when I took the job is we're trying to compete for national championships. We're not there yet, but we're going to get there."
Texas 85, Oakland 81: Tristan Thompson had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks, and the fourth-seeded Longhorns (28-7) survived a late comeback attempt in Tulsa, Okla.
Thompson, a freshman, controlled his matchup with Summit League player of the year Keith Benson (15 points and 11 rebounds), a senior.
The 13th-seeded Golden Grizzlies (25-10), trailing by 15 with less than five minutes left, cut the lead to 80-75 with 1:23 left. Texas hit five free throws to hold on.
"We just won a game against an outstanding team," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
Coach Greg Kampe said Oakland is progressing, but "right now doesn't feel like it. Right now it feels like I've got to say goodbye to Keith Benson. How am I going to say goodbye? It's like losing your wife or something."