Just when it looked like Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament hopes might be on the verge of extinction, the Vols mounted a late comeback to defeat Ole Miss 75-66 on Wednesday night.
Coming off a road loss against Mississippi State in which Tennessee had a 19-point lead, this game was imperative for the Vols. Tennessee started the game on a 10-3 run, but Ole Miss quickly closed the gap and kept the game close the rest of the way.
The two teams traded baskets most of the rest of the first half, but a late Ole Miss flurry gave the Rebels a 39-34 lead at halftime.
The second half was much of the same, as Ole Miss was able to maintain their lead anytime the Vols threatened. UT got within a point several times, but missed free throws plagued Tennessee much of the night and kept them at arm’s length from the Rebels. All of this while Tennessee went more than six minuted without a field goal in the middle of the second half, yet continued to battle.
But Tennessee stepped up when it needed to most. Down 62-57 with just over 4:00 to go, Robert Hubbs got a steal and got the ball to Lamonte Turner for a three to cut the Ole Miss lead to just two. Tennessee would tie the game at 64 on a Grant Williams bucket and not look back.
The Vols outscored the Rebels 11-2 over the final 2:00 to earn a much-needed victory.
Grant Williams led Tennessee with 20 points on 7-12 FG, while Robert Hubbs added another 18 points shooting 5-9 from the floor. Jordan Bowden also had two three pointers that were critical in the Vols’ comeback.
While it is obvious Tennessee needed this game, the way the Vols fought and battled should be very encouraging. UT sits right on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament and every win inches them ever so closer to the field of 68.
Tennessee takes on Georgia at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday at 4:00.