Vols cut down the nets with a hard-fought 66-61 win over Georgia

The Tennessee Volunteers beat the Georgia Bulldogs 66-61 this evening to win a share of the 2017-18 SEC regular-season championship. While their win against Mississippi State last Tuesday may have been their most complete performance, tonight’s was probably their gutsiest and most grueling, as they had to endure a game-long battle with inconsistent foul calls, foul trouble, frustrating play stoppages, and a Georgia team that not only featured a terrible matchup for the Vols’ squad but a backcourt that was abnormally hot from the three-point line in the first half.

Almost nothing went right early on either side of the court. Georgia’s Yante Maten and Tennessee’s Grant Williams spent most of the first period trying to determine how the officials were going to call the game, and Georgia’s usually feeble perimeter attack managed to nail nearly 60% of their three-point attempts.

Meanwhile, Tennessee couldn’t hit shots, couldn’t rebound, and couldn’t get into any sort of groove whatsoever. It was like playing basketball on a beach. They went to the locker room down 42-34.

The Vols didn’t so much storm back as claw their way back in the second half. On the defensive side of the ball, they held the Bulldogs to three points in the first eight and a half minutes.

On offense, Tennessee wasn’t exactly operating at full throttle, but they were able to gradually make progress, and they narrowed the lead to a single point when the clock hit 13:44 in what will forever remain one of my favorite plays of all time:

From there, Tennessee kept things close until they were finally able to take the lead on a Lamonte Turner three-pointer with 6:23 left to play.

At that point, the Vols had gone on a 21-11 run and seemed to be threatening to really take control. But Grant Williams chose that time to go on a fouling spree, getting a cheap one at 5:17 and following it up by fouling a three-point shooter at 3:58. With no room for margin, he picked up his last foul at 3:33 when he fell underneath the basket and happened to be on the ground when a Georgia player landed on him, giving him his fifth. Because Williams was one of the primary keys to the slow-motion comeback, Tennessee appeared to be in trouble. They were down by one with three and a half to go and now missing one of their two best players.

Maten then drove the point home by hitting a three-pointer to put the Dawgs up 61-57, but Tennessee’s Turner matched that on the next possession and once again narrowed the lead to one.

And then, finally, the game was iced by Jordan Bowden, Kyle Alexander, and Admiral Schofield. Bowden got fouled and hit both of his free throws to put the Vols up 62-61 with a minute remaining, and on the next possession, Alexander stole the ball. Schofield hit a jumper, and the Vols went up by three. leaving Georgia with 10 seconds to attempt to tie the game. They missed their shot, Alexander nabbed the rebound, and Schofield sealed the deal at the free throw line. Vols win, 66-61.

Schofield and Williams led the team in points with 23 and 22, respectively, but nobody else but Turner (who had 9) even sniffed double figures. Alexander did have 9 rebounds.

This had to have been one of the toughest contests for the Vols all season long, but they held up and came out on top. That bodes well for the postseason, as this team has shown it can win whether you make them play pretty or ugly.

Tonight was about as ugly as it gets, but when the clock hit all zeroes, it was about as pretty as it gets.

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It did not feel like a 32-19 second half for the Vols. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. Admiral was special. The steal off the save and the slam dunk is SportsCenter Top 10 material. It also reminds me of Dane Bradshaw’s steal and layup for the win against Florida. Grant got us back in there but wasn’t around himself when we needed him. But really almost all the guys did something little to pull out the win. Kyle with the deflection, Turner with a 3, Bone with a drive and 2 FTs, etc. etc. Going to… Read more »

Will Shelton

Today was a great day in Thompson-Boling. We’ve won some big ballgames in that place in the last 12 years, but few had such clear stakes and such high drama. Man that was fun.