One sweep likely kept Tennessee out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament last season.
One sweep likely will do the same to the Volunteers this season.
Just as he did in Texas A&M's win in Knoxville in January, Antwan Space hit the winning 3-pointer in the final seconds as the Aggies beat Tennessee 68-65 in overtime at Reed Arena in College Station on Saturday afternoon.
"It was kind of heartbreaking, the way we lost in Knoxville, [to] come down here to lose the same way," Vols forward Jeronne Maymon, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds, told the Vol Network radio broadcast after the game.
The Vols rued a sweep at the hands of a Georgia team that had an RPI of 140 on Selection Sunday a season ago, and two losses to a Texas A&M team that began the week at 135 in the RPI figures to have a similar effect.
Space, a 6-foot-8 Florida State transfer, was 2-of-2 on 3s, including the winner with 4.4 seconds left, in Texas A&M's 57-56 win in Thompson-Boling Arena, but entering Saturday's contest he was just 7-of-29 on 3s this season.
He was 2-of-5 from distance Saturday, making the winner from the wing over Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes with 2.4 seconds left.
"Give him credit for making the shot," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin told the Vol Network. "It seems like they might have drawn up the play for him. I thought Jarnell was in front of him, and we talked about on the sideline: He's a guy you know where is [because] he can make a shot. With everybody, you're close up, man-to-man. You've got to stop your guy."
The Vols (16-11, 7-7 SEC) had to scrap and claw to get it to that point, though they also had a chance to steal the victory.
Fabyon Harris, who scored 13 points and hit three 3s off Texas A&M's bench, hit two free throws with 3:20 left to give the Aggies (16-11, 7-7) an eight-point lead before Tennessee's desperate rally.
Jordan McRae and Stokes each hit two free throws, Maymon dunked and Josh Richardson gave the Vols a boost with a steal-and-dunk, while the Aggies' Jamal Jones took an unnecessary shot with about a minute left and his team up four.
After Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso missed the front end of a one-and-one with 14.3 seconds left, the Vols had the ball down 59-57. With the ball stuck outside the 3-point line, Martin asked for a timeout as Antonio Barton took a pass from Richardson on the right wing, launched and hit a would-be winning 3 as the whistle blew.
"We just didn't flow into what we were trying to do, so I called a timeout," the coach explained. "I didn't even really see the shot go up. I looked over to the ref, 'Timeout, timeout,' and the shot went in."
Inbounding from the right side with 2.4 seconds left, Richardson rifled a bounce pass down to Stokes in the post, and he turned and dunked as Caruso fouled him at the rim.
"We got over to the sideline and [called] a play that we work on, a situational play that we work on in practice, and they executed very well," Martin said. "Josh did a great job making the tough pass to Jarnell, and Jarnell did a tremendous job of catching it in traffic and finishing strong."
With 0.8 second on the clock, though, Stokes, a 68 percent free-throw shooter for the season, missed the ensuing free throw that would have won it.
Tennessee and Texas A&M exchanged baskets in the overtime, and Barton, a 61.4 percent free-throw shooter, hit two clutch free throws to tie the game at 65 with 15.6 seconds to set up Space's shot.
The Vols dropped to 0-5 this season in games decided by five or fewer points and 2-10 in games decided by 10 or less.
"You've got to refocus," Maymon said, "and we've really got to lock in and do some soul-searching and come out here and get this win [at Mississippi State] on Tuesday."
The Vols missed eight of their first 11 shots from the field and missed their first five free throws, but after trailing by five they scored the final seven points of the first half and led 27-24.
Stokes recorded his SEC-best 16th double-double of the season in the first half with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and though he finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds, he got just three shots in the second half and overtime.
Texas A&M, now 15-2 at home this season with losses to North Texas and Vanderbilt, got to the rim with ease in the second half. The Aggies shot 13-of-22 (59 percent) in the second half with 16 of their first 27 points of the half coming in the paint.
"We started opening up those lanes because they made a couple of 3s in the first half," Martin said. "We told our guys to continue to stick to the scouting report, and I thought we started opening those lanes up and allowing those guys penetration. We didn't do a good job of keeping those guys in front of us.
Needing a win to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, Tennessee shot just 42 percent for the game and only 3-of-15 from 3-point range and missed eight free throws.
"You have to get 'em out of your system as fast as you can," Martin said. "That's easier said than done. Our guys battled, they competed and we came up short."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com
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 ...
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