Vols lose to Michigan amid speculation about coach Pearl's future
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WATE) - Head coach Bruce Pearl says he wants to stay at Tennessee after the Vols' blowout loss 75-45 to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Freshman forward Tobias Harris was effective for the Vols early on, but Michigan found success after switching to zone defense.
The Wolverines took the lead in the first half and didn't look back.
Michigan's Zack Novak scored 14 points, including two 3-pointers in a decisive spurt to start the second half.
In only their second NCAA tournament appearance since 1998, the eighth-seeded Wolverines (21-13) turned a four-point half time lead into a rout when they got hot from the outside and found a way to stop Harris.
After scoring 19 points and not missing a combined 13 shots from the field and foul line in the first half, Harris went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting as ninth-seeded Tennessee was outscored 42-16.
Tennessee fell victim to turnovers, bad shots and a lack of defense.
No other UT player but Harris reached double figures.
Tennessee's season ended at 19-15.
The loss comes on the heels of comments made by UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton Tuesday on Knoxville radio station WNML the Sports Animal.
When asked about Pearl's future, Hamilton said he didn't know the answer and there had been a lot of soul searching about the program.
At Friday's press conference following the loss to Michigan, coach Pearl had questions right away about where to lay the blame. "You don't use (distractions) as an excuse," he said. "Don't put this loss on (Mike Hamilton's comments)."
Asked whether this was his last game, Pearl said, "I'm going to go be evaluated." He said the Vols have made six NCAA trips in six years and all six seniors have graduated or will graduate in May.
Pearl added, "My desire is to be the head coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time."
"We're fifth in the nation in attendance," Pearl said. "I think our program is on very solid footing."