Unlikely hero

You could hear Tennessee fans moan when four-year starting point guard C.J. Watson fouled out with nearly three minutes left in Saturday night's game against No. 2 Florida. They didn't have a whole lot of faith in little-used backup Jordan Howell. That didn't matter, though, because Tennessee's players and coaches apparently did.

"I don't think any of us panicked," head coach Bruce Pearl said.

"Everybody was very confident," junior forward Dane Bradshaw said.

Well … ALMOST everybody. Because he never plays in the closing minutes of tight games against top-five opponents, Jordan Howell had to be experiencing some nerves. Fortunately for UT, he overcame them in very short order.

"One thing that really helped Jordan, I think, is that he came in and executed a play to perfection," Bradshaw noted. "It was the play that got the lay-up for Andre (Patterson)."

The play in question occurred just 12 seconds after Watson fouled out. With UT clinging to a 71-70 lead, Howell fired a nifty pass to Patterson for a lay-up that boosted the lead to 73-70 with 2:41 to play. Ultimately, Howell played the final 2:53 without a turnover and even made an important free throw. Patterson wasn't at all surprised by Howell's clutch performance.

"He just needed an opportunity," the senior forward said. "I remember we came in together; my redshirt year he was a freshman. I realized we had a little thing going where we played well together. Jordan stepped up."

Although it was overshadowed by his assist and free throw in the final three minutes, Howell also hit a huge 3-pointer with 10:44 remaining, sparking an 8-3 spurt that turned a 57-52 deficit into a 61-60 Tennessee lead.

As Pearl noted: "What he did at the end of the game played a large part in our victory."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories