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NCAA Tournament Recap (Delaware-Tennessee)

Posted: Fri March 12, 1999 at 5:37 p.m. EST

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ticker) -- After shooting blanks in the first half, Brandon Wharton scored all 16 of his points in the second half to lead fourth-seeded Tennessee to its first NCAA Tournament win in 16 years, a 62-52 victory over 13th-seeded Delaware in the first round of the East Region.

Wharton, Tennessee's leading scorer, missed his first eight shots as both teams struggled from the field in the first half. But Wharton awoke from his slumber in the second half when the Volunteers built an 11-point lead.

Tennessee (21-8) earned its first NCAA Tournament win since 1983 despite shooting just 26 percent from the field in the first half and 33 percent for the game. Delaware shot a dismal 30 percent from the field.

"We didn't play good and we still won," Tennessee coach Jerry Green said. "That's a more optimistic way of saying this was an ugly game."

Tennessee will play 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State in the second round on Sunday.

Isiah Victor had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Tony Harris added 10 points and three steals for the Volunteers.

Overall, Tennessee is 6-11 in the NCAA Tournament and never has reached the round of 16 in 10 trips.

Tennessee's victory improved the Southeastern Conference to 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament with previous wins by Auburn, Arkansas and Florida.

Steve Pegues, the America East Player of the Year, led Delaware (25-6) with 23 points, but hit just 7-of-23 shots. John Gordon, Delaware's second leading scorer, was just 3-of-9 from the field and finished with seven points.

"I was getting the same type of shots I usually get, but they just didn't go down today," said Gordon. "We expected to come down here and win. Our team felt that way, our coaches felt that way and the whole state of Delaware felt that way."

The Blue Hens have never won an NCAA Tournament game in four appearances and lost in the first round for the second straight year.

Tennessee looked like anything but the team that beat Kentucky twice this season, missing 17 of its first 20 shots. But despite shooting just 27 percent (9-of-33), the Volunteers held a 25-22 halftime lead.

"We couldn't buy a basket in the first half," Wharton said. "In the second, I was trying to get it a little closer. We knew if we kept playing defense, we'd be alright."

Delaware was just as cold, converting 6-of-24 shots (25 percent) in a half that resembled a preseason exhibition rather than an NCAA Tournament game.

"I was a little disappointed with how fast we played, but we defended very well," said Delaware coach Mike Brey. "We needed to be more in control and less in a rush."

Delaware tied the game, 25-25, when Tyrone Perry opened the second half with a 3-pointer. But Wharton followed with a layup for his first points of the game to ignite an 11-2 run.

Harris hit a 3-pointer, Wharton added another layup and C.J. Black and Victor each had dunks in the spurt, which opened a 36-27 lead for Tennessee with 15:44 left.

But Delaware scored the next eight points on three baskets by Pegues and a jumper by John Gordon to pull within 36-35 with 11:18 remaining.

Wharton then scored nine points to highlight a 13-4 run, opening a 49-39 lead with six minutes left. Delaware pulled no closer than seven thereafter.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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