Dane's tip nips OSU, 79-77

Like a Las Vegas slot machine, Dane Bradshaw proved to be a one-armed bandit Monday night in Nashville. Bradshaw stole the ball in the final 30 seconds, then stole the game via a clutch tip-in with 1.9 seconds left as Tennessee upset No. 14 Oklahoma State 79-77.

Limited to 22 minutes by a shoulder injury and foul trouble, Bradshaw finished with just 7 points and 4 rebounds. Yet, he was the difference in the final minute with his big stop on defense and his big bucket on offense. It was an amazing performance for a guy playing with a rotator cuff injury in his right (shooting) shoulder that is due an MRI examination on Tuesday.

Speaking on his post-game show, Vol coach Bruce Pearl described Bradshaw's gutsy effort as "unbelievable ... absolutely incredible," adding: "What character!"

Bradshaw wasn't the only Vol who showed character on this night. As Pearl noted: "So many of those kids represent that uniform so well in so many ways."

Like Chris Lofton, for instance. Hounded all over the court by 6-9 Marcus Dove, he scored 20 points despite an off night from the floor (5 of 15) and the foul line (7 of 11).

Then there was Duke Crews and Wayne Chism, two UT freshmen who went toe-to-toe with OSU's massive inside players. Crews recorded 17 points and 9 rebounds, Chism 9 points and 6 rebounds.

"We had to step up in a huge way tonight," Pearl said. "Look at Wayne and Duke, and how they battled. Duke Crews almost has a double-double as a freshman against a front line that is formidable. Then Wayne Chism comes in and does a really nice job defensively. Wayne made some big baskets, got some big defensive stops and some big rebounds at crunch time."

Fellow freshman Josh Tabb didn't score in his 18-minute relief stint, but he helped limit the Cowboys' JamesOn Curry to just 4-of-7 shooting and 13 points – five below his season's average.

"Josh Tabb struggled (on offense)," Pearl said, "but he played really good defense on Curry."

Clearly frustrated by Tennessee's relentless pressure, Curry fouled out with 2:48 remaining.

"Getting JamesOn Curry out of the game was the difference," Pearl said.

More precisely, the difference was getting Curry out and getting Bradshaw IN. With Bradshaw limited by fouls to five first-half minutes, the Vols went to the break trailing 43-37. Oklahoma State widened the gap to seven (55-48) with 15:30 to play but could not land the knockout punch.

The Vols chipped away at the deficit, and finally went in front 70-69 on a steal and drive by Bradshaw – who else? – with 6:25 to play. Chism scored on a tip to give the Vols a 72-71 lead and on a layup off a dandy assist from Bradshaw to tie the score at 74. A Bradshaw free throw and a Ramar Smith follow put UT on top 77-74 with 1:53 to play.

Mario Boggan, who led OSU with 20 points, muscled his way inside for a three-point play that tied the score at 77 with 1:35 to go. That's where it remained until Bradshaw flicked the ball away from Boggan with about 25 seconds left, then tipped in Ramar Smith's missed layup with 1.9 seconds left.

The victory, Tennessee's fifth in a row, lifts the Vols to 9-2. The loss was Oklahoma State's first under rookie coach Sean Sutton, who had gone 11-0 following his father (Eddie) as OSU's head man.

Tennessee won with a tremendous second half defensively, forcing 14 turnovers while committing only three.

"The fact Oklahoma State only got 15 shots in the second half talks about the kind of defense we played," Pearl said.

Tennessee also crashed the backboards, outrebounding the taller Cowboys 37-35 and spearing a mind-boggling 21 offensive rebounds. That enabled the Vols to come from behind in the game's final 10 minutes.

"I think our conditioning came into play," Pearl said. "We played a tough ball game (vs. Western Kentucky) on Saturday afternoon (yet) these guys were able to come out here and be the fresher team at the end."

Tennessee hosts Texas Saturday at noon.

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