Vols drop heartbreaker at Ole Miss

InsideTennessee is the place to visit for first-rate coverage of Vol hoops. Check out this insightful recap of Saturday's game at Ole Miss:

The stage was set – twice – but Tennessee’s storybook ending failed to materialize Saturday night in Oxford.

Star player Josh Richardson got two good looks in the final seconds – one to win and one to tie – but missed both jumpers as the Ole Miss Rebels held on for a 59-57 victory.

Ole Miss’ Jarvis Summers missed the back end of a one-and-one with 27.5 seconds left, and Tennessee got the ball to Richardson, who missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the right side. Teammate Robert Hubbs got the long rebound, then Vol coach Donnie Tyndall called timeout with 4.8 seconds left to set up the final shot. Richardson got the ball on the left wing and launched a 17-footer that rattled out at the buzzer.

With the win Ole Miss improves to 19-8 overall, 10-4 in SEC play. Tennessee slips to 14-12 and 6-8 after suffering its seventh loss in the past nine games.

Speaking on the post-game show, Tyndall described the outing as “a tough one to swallow,” adding: “I thought we had a good way about us the entire game. Our energy level was great. I thought we played with confidence at the offensive end. I thought we were composed and did a good job of the right people taking the right shots, sharing the ball. And we played hard defensively.”

The Vols bolted to a 7-5 lead with 17:09 left in Saturday’s first half, then went nearly 10 minutes without a point. Ole Miss used a 9-0 spurt to go up 14-7. Richardson finally broke the drought with a 15-footer from the right baseline at the 7:33 mark. That basket ignited a 13-4 spurt that put Tennessee on to 20-18. The game seesawed thereafter, with the Big Orange taking a 30-27 lead to the locker room.

The second half proved almost as streaky as the first. Tennessee opened with an 8-3 spurt to go up 38-30 but Ole Miss answered with a 22-9 rally that produced a 52-47 Rebel lead. Richardson hit a 3 and lobbed to Willie Carmichael for a dunk to tie the score at 52 with 6:57 left.

After a dunk by Ole Miss, Armani Moore scored on a drive to tie the score at 54 with 5:11 remaining. Ladarius White scored on a drive for the Rebels but Robert Hubbs answered with a game-tying eight-foot half-hook from in front with 4:10 to play.

Moore gave Tennessee a 57-56 lead with a free throw at the 3:07 mark but the Vols would not score again. Two Stefan Moody foul shots put Ole Miss on top at 58-57 with 1:54 remaining, then Summers hit the front end of a one-and-one with 27.5 seconds left to set up the dramatic finish.

Tennessee’s final play went as planned except for Richardson’s jump shot rattling out.

“We wanted to run Armani on what we call a misdirection screen,” Tyndall said. “We went under and over to the weak side. If they (Rebels) didn’t go with him, we would’ve gotten a cheap layup. They did a nice job with that, so the second part of it was to pop Derek (Reese) out and go dribble handoff – Derek being guarded by a big guy.

“If they hedge that hand-off to Josh it’s going to be a big guy having to keep Josh in front of him. We handed it off, and Josh kind of turned the corner. The third part of it, we had Kevin (Punter) at the top of the key and Robert (Hubbs) on the right wing if the defense converged (on Richardson)…. I thought we executed and got a good look. It just didn’t go in.”

Moore led Tennessee with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Richardson chipped in 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Punter hit four of eight 3-point tries and added 12 points. Moody scored 22 points and Summers 13 for the Rebels.

Tennessee held the Rebels 15 below their 73.9 points-per-game average, a stat that Tyndall found encouraging.

“It’s an explosive offensive team,” the coach said. “They play in spurts, and we really only gave up one spurt tonight where they really looked like their usual self. Other than that we did a pretty good job of containing them and making them earn every basket.”

The Vols limited Ole Miss to 38.9 percent (21 of 54) from the field and 35.5 percent (11 of 31) from 3-point range. They also won the backboards 37-28 and committed a manageable 13 turnovers.

“The energy and effort stats look pretty good,” Tyndall noted, “but we’re just disappointed with the final outcome.”

Tennessee returns to action Thursday night, hosting Vanderbilt for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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