It had been 17 years since the last time the Ole Miss Rebels beat a team ranked seventh or higher at the Pavilion.
And if it weren’t for an incredible game-saving layup from Grant Williams combined with a smart defensive play by Admiral Schofield, then the Rebels would’ve beaten the Tennessee Volunteers on Wednesday night.
A huge slip-up on account of the Rebels handed Tennessee a hard-fought victory and kept the Vols in the conversation for the SEC regular-season championship as they beat the Rebels, 73-71.
The game got off to a terrible start for the Rebels, as Kermit Davis had to use his first timeout of the game at the 18:05 mark after a Jordan Bone basket pushed the Tennesseee lead to 4-0, but it wasn’t because of the score. The Rebels were out of whack offensively and started the game 0/4 from the field. It didn’t get much better as Terence Davis missed a three-point try coming out of the timeout.
Believe it or not, things became worse for Ole Miss after the missed shot. Two straight Rebel turnovers helped the Vols stretch the lead to 8-0 before a desperation three from Blake Hinson went through to end the misery.
But give credit to Tennessee’s defense, which was airtight and didn’t allow a single point for the first four minutes of the game.
Ole Miss finally found a bit of offense, but the Vols continued to pace the lead. Then, things collapsed quickly.
The Vols turned the ball over on four of the next five possessions. Those four turnovers came during a 3:25 span and was highlighted by a sick dunk by Davis after he stole the ball from Yves Pons.
Pons was called for a foul which allowed Davis a chance to convert a three-point play and tie the game. He was able to do just that and the game was tied, 13-13.
Admiral Schofield responded with this first bucket of the game to regain the lead, but Davis answered right back with a three-point shot to put Ole Miss right back in front, 16-15. Jordan Bone came through next with a jumper and the Vols led, 17-16.
Both teams continued to battle, but Tennessee maintained the lead until Breein Tyree hit a deep three to tie the game at 25-25. A nice assist from Grant Williams to Kyle Alexander put Tennessee back up, but another deep three from Terence Davis gave Ole Miss a 28-27 lead with 4:22 left in the first half.
The lead grew to 31-27, but Tennessee was able to tie it up at 33 before Bruce Stevens drained one from the elbow to break the tie. Two more Stevens buckets allowed Ole Miss to head into halftime with a 39-34 lead.
Ole Miss started off 1/9 from the floor, but finished the half 13/24, including 5/11 from three-point range. The Vols outscored them 22-12 in the paint, but turnovers and an inability to stay in front of the ball is what cost Tennessee the most.
Tennessee on the other hand, couldn’t hit a three for their collective lives. A 1/7 mark wasn’t going to get the job done.
But a 10-0 run to open the second half would. Lamonte Turner led the charge, scoring 7 of the 10 points to help Tennessee take a 44-41 lead. After breaking the tie, he scored another basket, giving him nine straight points and handing the Vols a 43-41 lead.
Two more free throws from Williams pushed the run to 14-0. Did the Vols find their groove during halftime?
It looked that way as they led up until a 9-0 run by the Rebels and yet another three-point shot from Davis put the Rebels back in the lead, 58-57, with 10:02 left in the game. Ole Miss shot 6/8 from the floor during the run before two Grant Williams free throws brought it to a halt and gave the lead back to Tennessee, 59-58.
A key part of Williams’ free throws was that it was the fourth foul on Hinson, who had been a big factor up until that point.
Both teams traded the lead for a while, but an offensive rebound by Davis followed by a Stevens tip-in gave the Rebels some breathing room as they led 66-63 with 5:30 to play.
But the Vols battled back and who else than Grant Willliams came through with the diving layup to put Tennessee back up, 67-66 with under 3:00 to play. The good feeling didn’t last long though as Tyree drained a three to put Ole Miss on top again, 69-67.
Schofield had a chance to tie it up, but could only make one shot from the charity stripe and Tennessee continued to trail, 69-68.
Two made free throws from Hinson put the Rebels up 71-68 with just :33 left in the game and Tennessee looked like it was about to lose back-to-back games for the first time this season.
But the game took a sudden, drastic turn in Tennessee’s favor.
Jordan Bowden immediately responded with a jumper to make it a one-point game and Williams then fouled Tyree. Fortunately for the Vols, Tyree, an 84% free throw shooter, missed the first attempt on the one-and-one and UT was able to get the rebound.
Williams then fought through a double team and made the layup to put the Vols back up, 72-71, but that wasn’t even the best part.
After receiving the ball, Devontae Shuler was hurrying across the court so the Rebels could attempt a last-second three, but when Schofield established position, Shuler collided into him, resulting in an offensive charge. Kermit Davis then lost his mind and was called for a technical foul.
Williams missed the first free throw, but knocked down the second to preserve the 73-71 victory.
He would finish the night with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds. You can check out the final score and stats here.
The Vols (25-3, 13-2) will host the Kentucky Wildcats (24-4, 13-2) on Saturday, March 2nd. Tip-off is scheduled for 2PM EST.