Vols’ Last-Minute Comeback Attempt Falls Just Short of Glory

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    Had Tennessee have been able to come back and defeat Texas last night, on the road, it would have been one of the Vols’ most resilient wins on the season without question. With eight minutes left in the game, the Vols were down 17 points in a hostile environment. However, after the next six and a half minutes went by, Tennessee found themselves tied with the Longhorns for the final closing seconds.

    Tennessee would go on to lose the game by a score of 52 to 51 after a buzzer-beating game-winning shot attempt rattled across the rim.

    Ultimately, there is a lot that went into this game, and a lot that factored into the win or loss before the final shot left Josiah-Jordan James’ hands.

    Tennessee and Texas spent the entirety of the first half trading punches back and forth. Both teams were struggling to find consistent offense, battling both hot streaks and cold streaks in the first 20-minutes of the game.

    Texas struck first in the game which gave the Longhorns the lead for the first eight to nine minutes. Then Tennessee took the lead at 11-10 and carried it for the next few minutes. Then Texas regained the lead, which was later taken back by Tennessee. The game looked to be trending towards a tie-game at the half with both teams knotted at 25. But as Texas’ player chucked up the halfcourt heave, Tennessee forward Olivier Nkamhoua was called for a foul and Texas was able to take a two-point lead into the break.

    In hindsight, with everything in mind, that was one of the critical places that Texas stole points from Tennessee. And in what ended up being a one-point game, two free points at the end of the first half are big time.

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    Texas ended up carrying those two points forward and stretched them out into a massive run to start the second half. Texas already had 10 second half points on the board by the time that Kennedy Chandler dropped in the first bucket of the half for Tennessee.

    Texas’ dominance continued as the Vols’ sluggish offense couldn’t match the Longhorns’ pace like in the first half. Tennessee’s leading scorer, Santiago Vescovi, ended the game with three points and one made field-goal. While the Longhorns kept a keen eye and a defender close to Vescovi all game, the Vols’ offense struggled considerably without Vescovi able to generate offense.

    However, in the final ten minutes of the game, the Vols were starting to hit more and more shots while Texas’ offense slowed down considerably. James’ made jump-shot at the 5:20 mark sparked a 16-0 run from Tennessee to eventually tie the game at 51. James, Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler, and Austin-native Victor Bailey Jr. were all critical in Tennessee’s final five minute stretch.

    The game was tied at 51 starting at the 1:23 mark after Bailey’s putback layup was good. However, Tennessee did not score a point for the remainder of the game. With six seconds remaining, James was called for a ticky-tack foul that sent Texas’ Timmy Allen to the free throw line. After missing the first attempt, Timmy’s second attempt gave Texas the go-ahead point they needed to win.

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    With six seconds left in the game, Tennessee needed a final game-winning shot attempt. After some baseline back-and-forth, Zeigler came screaming down the court with the ball. Zeigler swung the ball to James, who took the three-point shot, which rattled out of the basket. In hindsight, Vescovi was wide-open in the corner for the shot as well. But even with that, James had just hit two three-pointers in the last six minutes and was clearly feeling hot from downtown.

    “We couldn’t have asked for a better look,” Barnes said about the player after the game.

    However, at the end of the day, Tennessee just needed an open look from the court. You can debate all day long if Zeigler should have kept it or if James should have swung it to Vescovi. But, again, Tennessee ended up with a great look from the perimeter, which is as much as they can ask for.

    After coaching at the University of Texas for 17 years, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes and the Volunteers fell to Texas by a score of 52-51 in Austin on Saturday night.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.