Hopson was never better than in Saturday's game with Georgia, hitting 12 of 19 shots en route to 32 points.
"I get up for these OUTLIVE games," he said, referring to games promoting cancer research and screening. "It's a big event. Then the fact we're at home and playing against a guy like Travis Leslie, who is a great player ... I embrace the competition. I just wanted to come out and give my team the best chance at victory I possibly could."
Even with Hopson on fire versus the Bulldogs, though, the Vols suffered a disappointing 69-63 loss. An early 7-22 deficit proved costly, and Hopson shouldered some of the blame for the slow start.
"We took a bunch of bad shots early," he said, "and I took some of them."
After missing his first four field-goal tries, however, Hopson essentially took over the game. He sank 10 of his next 11 shots and 12 of his final 15 on his way to the career-high point total.
"I'd trade those 32 points for a win any day of the week,'' he said with a shrug. "It's devastating. This is one that slipped away, and it was (due to) a lack of focus. I looked up at the scoreboard, and it was 22-7, and I was like, ‘We've got to go.'"
The Vols really have to go now. With a 16-11 overall record and a 6-6 SEC record, they are no longer a lock to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"It's definitely in the back our minds," Hopson conceded. "Everyone knows it's gut-check time. Everyone knows we might not possibly make the NCAA tournament.''
HOPSON IN UT'S LAST EIGHT GAMES
Jan. 26 vs. LSU: 9 of 14 FGs, 3 of 6 from 3, 22 points
Jan. 29 at Ole Miss: 6 of 12 FGs, 2 of 5 from 3, 16 points
Feb. 3 at Auburn: injured
Feb. 6 vs. Alabama: injured
Feb. 8 at Kentucky: 3 of 8 FGs, 2 of 3 from 3, 11 points
Feb. 12 at Florida: 9 of 14 FGs, 3 of 3 from 3, 22 points
Feb. 16 vs. S.Carolina: 7 of 16 FGs, 3 of 8 from 3, 23 points
Feb. 19 vs. Georgia: 12 of 19 FGs, 2 of 7 from 3, 32 points