KNOXVILLE – Three times a Tennessee player had a hand on a defensive rebound in the final two minutes.
All three times the ball ended back in the hands of the guys in blue.
The Volunteers lost a chance at a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference tournament later this week after losing 64-58 to visiting Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
It was the eighth loss at home this season for UT (18-13, 8-8 SEC), which lost five SEC games at home, all in the final minutes. Tobias Harris scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Scotty Hopson scored nine of his 13 points at the free-throw line.
Freshman guard Brandon Knight scored all but two of his 19 points in the second half, and Terrence Jones and Darius Miller added 15 points apiece for the Wildcats (22-8, 10-6)), who won for just the second time on the road in league play.
UT scored the game’s first seven points before Kentucky answered with five straight. Cameron Tatum’s one-handed running slam in transition capped a 9-1 spurt that gave the Vols their largest lead of the first half.
The Wildcats, who shot just 28 percent from the field in the first half, made it 22-19 on Terrence Jones’ only basket of the first half, but UT scored seven of the half’s final 10 points. Kentucky’s Brandon Knight and UT’s Scotty Hopson made just one basket each in the half.
Kentucky opened the second half on a 18-4 run to take a 35-31 lead on three Knight treys and another from Doron Lamb. The Wildcats made six field goals in the half’s first five minutes after making just eight the entire first half and sank their first five 3-point attempts.
UT chipped away at its deficit at the foul line. The Vols made 10 consecutive free throws during a six-minute stretch of the second half and forced Kentucky’s guards into foul trouble.
Goins’ driving layup brought UT to within a basket, and Kenny Hall’s hook shot briefly gave UT a 52-51 lead before Kentucky ran off the next five points to regain the lead.
After Hopson’s three-point play brought UT to within one, Miller drained a 3-pointer. Down 59-56, UT forced missed threes by Knight and Jones, but Josh Harrellson and Jones each grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds.
Miller missed a contested jumper on Kentucky's next possession, but the Vols knocked the ball out of bounds.
The Vols will play Arkansas at 7:30 on Thursday night, and the winner of that game will play SEC champion Florida on Friday.
More coverage later today online and in Monday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...