Following Saturday’s loss in Starkville against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Tennessee Volunteers (13-9, 5-4 SEC) once again found themselves on the road in Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-10, 4-5 SEC).
Despite having identical records, Alabama was favored by 9.9 points according to oddsshark.com, but this did not stop the Volunteers from beating the Crimson Tide in comeback fashion.
The Volunteers kept the game close for the first seven minutes of regulation until the Crimson Tide caught fire behind the 3-point line and extended their lead to 15 points with 3:25 left in the first half.
The Vols were able to cut the lead to eight before half time. The Vols accomplished this while shooting just 31% from the field to Alabama’s 52%.
Tennessee started the second half with a 4-0 run, cutting the deficit down to seven. Both teams struggled the next several possessions to score a basket.
It was Senior Jordan Bowden who was able to draw an and-one basket that pulled the Vols within five with 12:57 remaining in the second half.
The Vols continued to battle with the Crimson Tide to erase their lead until Jordan Bowden hit a pair of free throws to put the Vols on top 54-53 with 8:22 left in the second half. This would be the first lead for the Volunteers since early in the first half.
Two of Alabama’s big men had already fouled out when freshman Santiago Vescovi was able to draw the fifth foul on the Crimson Tide’s last big man. Vescovi sank his two ensuing free throws, giving the Vols a 67-63 lead.
The Crimson Tide was able to cut the lead to 67-65 following a dunk from Alabama’s junior guard John Petty.
Following a Tennessee turnover, the Tide had the ability to take the lead. However, a huge block by Yves Pons gave the Vols the ball back. Pons was then fouled and sent to the free throw line with 4.1 seconds left in the game.
He sunk both free throws, giving Tennessee a 69-65 lead. The Crimson Tide failed to mount a comeback with just a few seconds left, and Tennessee took the game 69-68.
When asked what adjustments the team made to overcome his team’s 15-point deficit and beat Alabama, senior John Fulkerson said, “We just started listening to this guy over here (Rick Barnes). He’s usually right.”
The Vols’ 15-point comeback win was the Volunteers’ largest come-from-behind win since 2017, according to ESPN.
Coach Barnes and the Vols now have under four days to prepare for the powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats, who will come to town on Saturday. Tip-off on Feb. 8 is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured photo courtesy of Tennessee Basketball Twitter (@Vol_Hoops)