By Joseph Bonanno
Tennessee has only faced Michigan twice in the Big Dance, the first in 2011 resulting in a 30-point loss for UT. The second is a game that Vols’ fans will remember forever as the Wolverines were given the ball on a controversial charge call that ultimately ended Tennessee’s 2014 run in the Sweet Sixteen.
Trailing 72-69, Tennessee was able to poke the ball away on a Michigan inbounds pass which led to a Jordan McRae baseline layup that cut the lead down to just one point with 10.8 seconds left in the game. The Vols were then able to put on a full court pressure on Michigan in a desperate attempt to regain possession of the ball, which resulted in Wolverine Caris LeVert stepping out of bounds and giving the ball back to Tennessee with 9.6 seconds.
That’s when controversy struck.
Tennessee’s former forward Jarnell Stokes caught the inbounds pass in the left corner, and using his big frame, drove to the basket in an attempt to take the lead. However, Stokes was double teamed by Wolverines Jordan Morgan and LeVert as soon as he made a move, knocking the ball out of his hands and sending it flying out of bounds.
The scream of the official’s whistle echoed throughout Lucas Oil Stadium, as Vol fans believed they were going to get free throws to tie the game and possibly take the lead. However, that was not the case.
The official walked onto the court, right past Stokes and threw his fist out indicating that Stokes had committed a charge. The Tennessee players couldn’t believe it as the Michigan bench erupted into a frenzy.
Vol nation couldn’t believe it either as they just witnessed their chance at an Elite Eight appearance disappear behind the shrill of a whistle.
Controversy against Big Ten programs is something that has followed every one of Tennessee’s athletic programs. Two of recent memory are Lamonte Turner’s foul call against Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen in 2019 that gave the Boilermakers the game-winning free throws and the Jaylen Wright’s non-touchdown call in the Vols’ 2022 Music City Bowl loss against Purdue.
The charge call against Michigan in 2014 cuts a little deeper into Vol fans this year after the plague of charges that flooded the NCAA, especially in a loss against Arkansas on the road in which Razorback forward Jaylin Williams collected four charges calls on his own, just a fraction of charges called on the Vols.
Despite the controversial officiating, Tennessee has since bounced back from that loss at Bud Walton Arena, winning eight games in a row, including an SEC Tournament championship and a victory out of the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament over 14-seed Longwood.
While memories of the 2014 call may loom in the minds of Tennessee fans, the 3-seed Vols look to put the past controversy behind them and charge back against Michigan in the second round of the tournament on Saturday as the two teams are set to tip-off at 5:15 p.m. ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Tennessee is looking for a different outcome against Michigan than their past two meetings in the tournament, and hopefully for one that doesn’t involve any controversy.