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5 Observations: No. 7 Tennessee 73, Ole Miss 71

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee snatched a victory away from the jaws of defeat on Wednesday night in Oxford, Mississippi.

The No. 7 Vols went back-and-forth with Ole Miss for the majority of the second half, and the Rebels had the lead for most of the last two minutes of the game. Blake Hinson made a pair of free throws to give the Rebels a 71-68 lead with 33.3 seconds remaining. The Vols drove down the court, and Jordan Bowden nailed a jumper with 18.9 seconds left to cut it to a 71-70 lead.

Then, the madness ensued.

Grant Williams got called for a foul, and Breein Tyree missed the front-end of a one-and-one. Tennessee corralled the miss and ran down the court. Williams got the ball in his hands, and he drove to the basket and absorbed all kinds of contact and made a layup with 4.3 seconds remaining to give UT a 72-71 lead.

Ole Miss tossed the ball in on the in-bounds, and Devontae Shuler streaked down the court. He put up a wild shot on a deep three to try and draw a foul on Admiral Schofield, but instead a charge was called on Shuler, giving the ball back to Tennessee with 1.1 seconds remaining. Ole Miss got called for a technical foul, and Grant Williams went to the line.

He missed one free throw and made the next. And that was the final score.

Tennessee (25-3, 13-2 SEC) escaped Oxford with a 73-71 victory over the Rebels (19-9, 9-6 SEC) in a crazy contest. There were 14 lead changes and seven different times in which the game was tied on Wednesday night. And the Vols somehow emerged victorious in the end.

Williams led the Vols in scoring with 21 points. He also grabbed six rebounds and had four assists. Lamonte Turner added 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists, and Admiral Schofield had 11 points and six boards.

Breein Tyree and Terence Davis both had 16 points for Ole Miss, and Blake Hinson scored 14. Bruce Stevens had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Here are our biggest takeaways from the Vols’ last-second victory over Ole Miss.

Back and Forth

Saturday’s game was close for the vast majority of the contest.

The Vols jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but Ole Miss would tie it up at 13 with 10:44 to go in the first half. The Vols and Rebels would never have a differential of more than five points in the remainder of the first half, and Ole Miss would grab a 39-34 halftime lead. They extended that to a seven-point lead to start the second half, then Tennessee went on a 14-0 run to take a seven-point lead of their own with 15:44 remaining.

But that lead was erased in a matter of five and a half minutes.

Ole Miss took a one-point lead on a Davis three with 10:12 to go in the game, and it was anyone’s game after that.

The game was tied three times after that point, and the lead exchanged hands eight times in the final 10-plus minutes.

The two teams played very evenly in a lot of areas. They tied in total rebounds (32) and were close in a number of other areas. Ole Miss had 10 turnovers while the Vols had nine. Ole Miss went to the free throw line 15 times while the Vols went 16 times. Tennessee had 16 assists while the Rebels had 14.

When it was all said and done, the Vols got the victory.

Threes and Paint Presence Make a Difference

The Rebels were able to keep themselves in the game because of their ability to make threes, but Tennessee’s presence down low ultimately helped them get the win.

Ole Miss was 9-of-23 from three and hit some NBA-level threes. Shuler was perfect from three, hitting both his shots from distance. Tyree was 2-of-3 from deep, and Davis was 3-of-8.

Tennessee, meanwhile, was just 3-of-13 from three. Jordan Bone missed both his three-pointers, and Jordan Bowden was 0-of-4 from three.

The Vols missed their threes, but they were great in the paint, even with Kyle Alexander only playing 11 minutes while he fought back the flu.

Tennessee doubled up Ole Miss in the paint, 36-18. Grant Williams didn’t attempt a single three-pointer and did almost all his damage in the paint. He was 7-of-13 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

As a team, the Vols shot 57.7 percent overall in the second half and 51.8 percent in the game. They were 60.5 percent on their two-point attempts.

Bowden’s Slump Continues

Jordan Bowden’s abysmal run over the last few weeks continued on Wednesday night.

The redshirt junior guard had a couple threes that looked like they were going in, but none of them did. He missed all four of his three-pointers, and he still hasn’t hit a three since Tennessee’s game against South Carolina on February 13th. Since that game, he’s 0-for-11 from distance.

Against Ole Miss, Bowden made a clutch jumper in the waning seconds to pull the Vols within one, so he made a shot when it mattered most. But he finished the game with just four points in 29 minutes, and he only added two rebounds and two assists as well.

Over his last four games, Bowden is averaging 3.8 points and has only made five of his last 24 shots (20.8 percent).

Turner Wakes Up

While Bowden’s slump kept on going, Lamonte Turner finally ended his shooting struggles and was a huge asset for the Vols against the Rebels.

Turner finished with the second-most points in the game for Tennessee, totaling 17. He only made one of his four three-pointers, but he was 8-of-12 overall and made a couple mid-range jumpers while also slashing to the basket. That was the most points Turner had scored in a game since he put up 19 points against Texas A&M on February 2nd.

The redshirt junior was averaging just 8.5 points over his last six games, and he had shot just 34.6 percent overall in those six games.

Vols Stay Even

The win was big for Tennessee for a number of reasons. Not only did it give them some momentum heading into a huge match-up at home against Kentucky on Saturday, but it kept the Vols even atop the SEC standings.

Tennessee improved to 13-2 in SEC play and stayed in a three-way tie with Kentucky and LSU at the top spot in the SEC standings. LSU holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Vols and Wildcats for the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC Tournament, but the Vols are still in line to win a share of the regular season conference title.

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