KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In front of a season-high crowd of 21,957, No. 3 Tennessee edged the Alabama Crimson Tide, 71-68, Saturday to remain undefeated in Southeastern Conference play.
With the Vols (16-1, 5-0 SEC) up 69-68 with 3.2 seconds left, Alabama’s (11-6, 2-3 SEC) John Petty was called for a travel at the elbow to give the ball back to Tennessee. Lamonte Turner–fouled on the ensuing inbounds play–drilled both of his attempts at the line to give UT a three-point edge with 2.5 seconds left in the game.
A half-court heave from Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr. was long at the buzzer, giving Tennessee its 11th win inside of Thompson-Boling Arena this season. National Player of the Year candidate Grant Williams led the way with 21 points, including nine in the second half. The junior, who fouled out with 12 seconds left in the game, has now scored 20 or more points in eight games this season.
Admiral Schofield ended the game with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. With just under three minutes on the clock, Tennessee turned to the senior wing as he got his defender in the air before knocking down a running jumper from just inside the elbow. His jumper tied the game at 65-65 with 2:51 left to play.
On the next possession, the Vols went to Schofield again. He laid it up with 2:12 on the clock to put Tennessee ahead for good at 67-65.
With Tennessee up one and Alabama with the ball with 1:31 on the clock, the Tide got the ball to Petty in the right corner. Williams sprinted to the corner, leapt as high as he could and blocked Petty’s shot to keep Tennessee in front.
Then, after scooping up a key offensive rebound on the other end, Williams laid it up and in to give the Vols a 69-66 advantage with 46 seconds remaining in the game.
It was the largest lead Tennessee had in the final 10 minutes of play, as neither team led by more than one score in the final 12:30.
After taking a double-digit lead into the halftime break, Alabama came out of the locker room on a 13-0 run to start the half. A Herbert Jones layup with 16:39 left in the game gave the Tide their first lead, as it was the first time this season an opponent has led in Thompson-Boling during the second half this season.
For much of the first half, Tennessee held the Alabama offense under 30 percent from the field as the Tide made just two of their first 10 attempts from the field. This helped the Vols build up the lead to as much as 12 midway through the first half.
A couple of Alabama made baskets cut the lead down to eight but, Tennessee stretched its lead back to double digits before halftime behind balanced scoring.
Every player who played more than three minutes in the first half had at least four points, with Grant Williams leading the way for the Vols. The junior finished the half with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Of Tennessee’s 18 field goals in the first 20 minutes, 12 were assisted on, as Jordan Bone had a team high five heading into the locker room. Saturday marked the eighth consecutive game the junior has had five or more assists. He has also had five or more assists in 14 of the Vols 17 games on the year.
The Vols took a 44-32 lead into the halftime break, making it the ninth time at home this season they held a double-digit lead at the half.
Clutch in Crunch Time: Tennessee made four of its last six field goals to finish the game while holding Alabama to just one of its last seven from the field. Admiral Schofield had two of Tennessee’s field goals during that final stretch, while Jordan Bowden and Grant Williams had one apiece.
Nickel and Dime ‘Em: With seven assists during Tennessee’s win, Jordan Bone recorded at least five assists for the eighth consecutive game. In total, Bone has dished out at least five assists in 14 of Tennessee’s 17 games.
Alexander Moves Up Blocks List: Kyle Alexander continues to climb Tennessee’s all-time blocks list, as he passed Wayne Chism and moved into sole possession of second-place during Tennessee’s win over Alabama. The Milton, Ontario, native blocked five shots against the Tide, moving his career total to 153.
Winning Season: Tennessee moves its winning streak to 12 games, which is its longest since the 1977-78 season. The Vols are just three games away from tying the all-time mark of 15 consecutive wins, which lasted from 1915-17. Their 16-1 start this season ties as the best start in school history (2007-08).
Up Next: Tennessee heads to Nashville for a midweek clash with the Vanderbilt Commodores. Wednesday’s tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.