Alabama went into Knoxville on Saturday with a four-game winning streak and coming off their biggest win of the year against Kentucky. However it was the Volunteers who came away with the 54-53 victory thanks to performances from Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae.
The two combined for 32 points and 19 rebounds. Stokes had a career high 18 of those rebounds, but his most important play might have come at the buzzer. Stokes was swapped on to Trevor Lacy with time running down, and his defense kept Lacy from getting a shot up. Alabama coaches and players all had shocked looks as there was no foul called and the ball appeared to go out of bounds with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Alabama was led by junior point guard Trevor Releford who finished with 18 points, 5 steals and 4 assists. He shot 3-for-3 behind the arc and 7 for 11 overall. The Tide shot 6 of 14 from three point land and 47 percent overall.
The game was dominated by Alabama until the last few minutes. Tennessee never seemed to get in a rhythm to come back from an early ten-point deficit. The Tide’s biggest lead of the second half was 45-38 with just over nine minutes to go. However, Anthony Grant’s team could not make it easy for themselves, going on a seven-minute drought without a field goal. The Volunteers took a 50-47 lead with 2:28 left in the game.
Lacy, who struggled early in the game, hit a three on the next possession to knot the game at 50. McRae then hit a jumper and Alabama guard Rodney Cooper missed the front end of a 1 and 1. Tennessee guard Trae Golden made two free throws after a foul on Releford with 31 seconds left to take a four-point lead. Releford answered with a big three to cut the lead to 54-53. After Golden missed his next free throw, Alabama had a chance to win it. Grant called a timeout to draw up a play for Lacy, which ended in a controversial victory for Tennessee.
Lacy finished with 11 points and Cooper had 10. Levi Randolph was held scoreless and Moussa Gueye finished with 6 points, 3 blocks and 2 rebounds while dealing with foul trouble for most of the game. The team only turned over the ball seven times while forcing 10 from Tennessee. The biggest difference came on the glass with the Volunteers outrebounding the Tide 33-17.
Alabama falls to 12-7 overall and 4-2 in the conference, while the Volunteers improved to 10-9 overall and 2-4 in the conference. Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next Thursday to face Arkansas.