Looking back at Tennessee’s memorable semifinal win over Kentucky
One year ago today, Tennessee was on the brink of a seasonal disaster.
Following a season that saw the Vols remain atop the AP poll for four consecutive weeks amidst a program-best 19-game won streak, Rick Barnes and co. stared a eight-point deficit directly in the face - and did not flinch.
Behind stellar play down the stretch from back-to-back SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams and All-SEC Wong Admiral Schofield, Tennessee embarked on a 3-minute stretch that defined what this group was all about.
For much of the afternoon, however, it didn’t appear that victory was in the cards.
While the Vols and Wildcats split the regular season meetings between the two, doubts began to settle in once UT sputtered towards the end of the season, losing to LSU and Auburn on the road while squandering any chance of claiming consecutive regular season conference titles.
On this, however, Tennessee’s resolve showed through and the Vols reigned supreme.
Following a strong move to the basket by Williams in the post, UT relied on its defensive prowess and timely shooting to bring them all the way back.
Schofield’s contested three from the wing cut Kentucky’s lead to two with just under two minutes to play, and from that point, the momentum was on Tennessee’s side.
A corner three from Williams with 1:29 to play in regulation gave the Vols a 75-74 lead, their first since early in the second half.
P.J. Washington followed that up with a score on the other end to give the Wildcats a one-point advantage, but the sense in the air at Bridgestone Arena was that something miraculous - no matter which side it came from - was going to happen.
Fortunately for Tennessee, on this night, the basketball gods were on its side.
Down by one with 33 seconds to play, Schofield received the ball on the wing from Williams and made his move towards the basket.
Noticing multiple defenders closing in, Schofield kicked it to a wide open Lamonte Turner at the top of the key. It was perhaps one of Tyler Herro’s only miscues in his otherwise flawless collegiate career.
Squaring his shoulders with Herro closing out to contest, Turner released a high-arching shot in one fluent motion over his defender’s outstretched arms.
Just like he had a little over 13 months prior, No. 1 broke the hearts of Kentucky fans across the globe with a dagger from long distance.
UT followed that up with its biggest stop of the season on the other end, and the rest, as we know now, is history.
The Vols would go on to fall short of their national championship aspirations, but there’s no doubt that this group laid an incredible foundation for Tennessee basketball to follow for years to come.
It’s only a matter of time before UT gets to that point again - and possibly finishes the deal this time around.