per·fect, adj. pur-fikt
Sure, Tennessee Volunteer fans wanted to win the game. Sure, we really wanted to beat the defending National Champs. And yeah, we really, really wanted to finish the season undefeated at home and send our beloved senior (that's a must-read article, by the way, so follow that link!) -- the Blender, the Glue-Guy, the Gator-Killer, the guy the coach thinks so much of that he is funding a brand new scholarship that will be named after him -- out with a bang.
Who says you can't have everything you want? We got exactly what we wanted. And more.
First, the final stats:
|Field Goals||29-50 (58%)||27-57 (47%)|
|3-Point FGs||7-17 (41%)||6-21 (29%)|
|Free Throws||21-34 (62%)||16-20 (80%)|
|Rebounds||25 (8 off, 17 def)||36 (17 off, 19 def)|
It was domination of the Abomination for the Vols for most of the game. Chris Lofton once again led the way with 21 points on 7-12 shooting from the field and 2-5 shooting from the arc. JaJuan Smith was, also once again, second in scoring with 16 points. But this game was all about Dane Bradshaw, who scored 10 points, hitting all three of his field goals, his only three-point attempt, and three of four free throws. He also had six rebounds and five assists, and, as always, as good as his statistics are, his contribution to the game really cannot be measured by them.
And so it was perfect when, with the Vols comfortably ahead with about 20 seconds left, Pearl made a special substitution for Bradshaw, bringing him off the floor to a rousing standing ovation meant only for him from fans sardined into Thompson-Boling Arena.
That ending is just the beginning of a perfect night. It was perfect that ESPN decided for forego its first commercial break and instead stay with live footage of the first timeout so that it could catch Lady Vols coach Pat Summit dressed up as a cheerleader leading the fans in a rendition of Rocky Top, the V-O-L-S cheer, and the V pyramid formation.
It was perfect to see favorite son Peyton Manning in attendance, applauding the Vols along with a couple of Super Bowl teammates, and to see him chatting it up with head football coach Phillip Fulmer.
It was perfect that we got to shatter Joakim Noah's stated reason for foregoing the NBA and returning to college (to beat the Vols twice, like we did to them last year). As gramsey712 observed in the game's open thread, Noah is officially 1-3 against the Hulk and the Pantheon.
What's that, you say? How can it be perfect when we squandered most of a 27 point lead? Ah, see, the best lessons are near-misses, if they are viewed appropriately. A lesson does its work best when the pain is the worst, so actually losing would have been an investment against a letdown later on. But almost getting bit for easing up on the gas with a big lead is even better because it provides most of the lesson without any of the pain.
And so I say this evening exactly fit our need. Pearl and Pat and Peyton. The Discombobulator and Dickie V in the Vicinity. And a resonating victory for our team and its cherished senior on his last night at home over a hated, top-ranked rival.
Now that's a good night.