Tennessee stood toe-to-toe with home standing No. 7 North Carolina and never backed down but came up short in a 73-71 loss Sunday in front of 18,745.
The Vols (4-4) jumped out to a 15-point first-half lead behind red-hot shooting.
Tennessee senior Robert Hubbs III was brilliant, finishing with 21 points. He was joined in double figures by freshman Jordan Bowden with 12. The Vols led nearly the entire game only to see it slip away in the last 3 minutes. The Vols had the basketball with 8 seconds left and a chance to win or tie but Lamonté Turner saw his shot blocked on a drive to the basket. That ended the chances of a massive upset for the Volunteers that would have been program-defining for Rick Barnes.
The Tar Heels (10-1) got at least six points from eight players.
Offense: The first half was 20 minutes played with good pace and great shooting for the Vols but the second half they matched baskets with the Tar Heels in much more of a half-court, grind-it-out type of game.
Tennessee shot a scorching 65 percent from the floor in the first half, making three of their six 3-point baskets. The Vols did commit eight turnovers in the first 14 minutes, 9 seconds, which was the only negative early on.
Bowden's 3-pointer at the 9:59 mark of the opening half was Tennessee's last trey of the contest.. There were three attempts that would have given the Vols a more substantial lead. One was with just over six minutes to go where Admiral Schofield missed an open 3 from the top of the key that would have put the Vols up eight. Another was an open look from Bowden that would have stretched the lead to six inside of five minutes. Grant Williams also missed a 3 that would have been a game-changer late.
The shots not falling hurt them but not as badly as 16 turnovers. A number of the miscues led directly to North Carolina fast-break points.
It was not Shembari Phillips' best effort as he committed four costly turnovers against two assists.
Defense: Tennessee held North Carolina to just 39.7 percent from the field, including 2-of-17 from 3-point land. The Vols did have some trouble with the dribble penetration, which led to breakdowns and defenders being out of position in the rebounding department but those types of issues are bound to happen from time to time against such a talented team. Tennessee was not able to turn North Carolina over like it has other opponents as the Tar Heels only committed 10 turnovers.
Grant Williams had four of Tennessee's six blocks. The defensive effort was plenty good enough for the Vols to win this game.
Rebounding: If there needs to a finger pointed at a reason the Vols couldn't hold on and pull of the upset, it's rebounding. North Carolina dominated the glass, puling down 22 offensive boards, leading to a number of second- and third-chance points. The officials did whistle the home team for a few over-the-back calls but not as many as the undersized Vols needed. Losing the offensive rebounding battle 22-7 was clearly a big factor in loss.