EditorsNote: resent with minor fixes
Grant Williams scored 21 points and made a key block late as No. 3 Tennessee rallied to avoid the upset and extend its winning streak to 12 games with a 71-68 victory over pesky Alabama on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.
Admiral Schofield overcame a 4-of-17 shooting effort to finish with 12 points plus 11 rebounds for the Volunteers (16-1, 5-0 in SEC), who equaled their longest winning stretch since 1976-77, while also recording a 19th consecutive victory at home.
With current No. 1 Duke losing at home to Syracuse on Monday and second-ranked Michigan suffering its first defeat earlier Saturday at Wisconsin, Tennessee could move into the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday.
However, the Vols, who received 13 first-place votes in this week’s AP Poll, did not play like a No. 1-ranked team Saturday. They led by as many as 15 in the first half and 12 at the break, but Alabama (11-6, 2-3) scored the first 13 points of the second half to lead 45-44, and still led by three with under five minutes. The Vols missed 10 straight field-goal attempts during one stretch.
In the end, though, it was Tennessee’s two stars who came through to help Rick Barnes’ team overcome a 29.4 percent shooting performance in the second half and 10 made 3-pointers from the Crimson Tide. Two straight Schofield buckets gave the Vols a 67-65 lead with 2:12 to play, and Williams made a huge block on a John Petty 3-point attempt with just over a minute left.
The sophomore Petty, who went 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, but he committed a critical turnover with three seconds remaining and Alabama down by one. After two free throws by the Vols’ Lamonte Turner, Kira Lewis Jr.’s heave at the buzzer missed, sealing Tennessee’s win.
Donta Hall recorded his SEC-leading ninth double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Crimson Tide, who have dropped three of four following a season-high five-game winning streak.
Tennessee will look to continue its win streak Wednesday night at Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Alabama returns home to take on No. 18 Mississippi on Tuesday.
—Field Level Media