By: Lee Ramsey
The Tennessee basketball team pulled off what was probably the biggest upset in the UT basketball history. It was absolutely the most amazing accomplishment of the Bruce Pearl era. The Vols overcame tremendous odds with the absence of four of its top eight players including the captain of the team. Due to dismissal and three suspensions, the Vols played with only six scholarship athletes and three walk-ons (playing 45 minutes), the Vols defeated Kansas, the number one ranked basketball team in America by a score of 76-68.
It was the biggest basketball victory in Thompson-Boling Arena in its 23 year history. For the first time since 1966 when Tennessee defeated Kentucky, the Vols beat the current number ranked team.
At the end of the game, Tennessee players were standing on the scorer’s table and chairs waving to the ecstatic orange crowd of almost 22,000 who really helped by being the loudest that most observers and coaches have ever heard in Thompson-Boling Arena.
UT Coach Bruce Pearl said this, “It was about the effort, the courage and the teamwork. It’s pretty amazing what chemistry can do when guys put their minds to something, and they know their backs are up against the wall.”
It was the first time the Vols played a No. 1 ranked team in Thompson Boling Arena. The win over the No. 1 Jayhawks (14-1) was nothing short of a miracle.
The score was locked 33-33 at half time. Just being in the game at that point was pretty amazing.
The game came down to the final minute after Kansas reeled off four straight points to cut the nine point lead to three 71-68 with 1:10 remaining.
With time running out, Skylar McBee from Grainger County (Seymour opponent in the past) drained a three from downtown Knoxville as time ran out on the shot clock.
“I heard the noise rise in the crowd, and I looked at the shot clock and saw there was three seconds on it,” McBee said. “I pump faked it, and Taylor came up in the air, so I kinda slipped under him and got the shot off.”
The crowd was deafening as the shot went in with 34 seconds showing on the clock. It was the proverbial “nail in the coffin” for the Kansas Jayhawks. This game was like a script from a Hollywood movie. David kills Goliath – with only one stone in the sling shot.
Leading the team in scoring was Scott Hopson with 17, Bobby Maze 16, and Renaldo Woolridge 14.
The Vols shot 48.1% for the game while the Jayhawks shot 37.7%
Coach Pearl had this to say, “This sends a very important message. When things aren’t going your way right away, you’ve got two choices. You can pack your bags and try to find a green pasture someplace else or you can stay because your opportunity is going to come.”
What a lesson in life this game taught. Never give up. When everything looks lost – believe, pull together, look adversity right in the face and still be successful no matter how hard the task.
Vols Perform the Incredible
By: Lee Ramsey