UT walk-ons step up vs. Kansas

When Wayne Chism picked up his fourth foul with 13:44 left and teammate J.P. Prince followed suit six seconds later, Tennessee's chances of upsetting No. 1 Kansas Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena appeared to be fading fast.

Making matters worse: With Chism and Prince on the bench, the Vol lineup featured three walk-ons - Skylar McBee, Josh Bone and Steven Pearl, son of head coach Bruce Pearl. The fact Tennessee led 49-42 at this point seemed immaterial. A lineup featuring three walk-ons couldn't possibly hang with the best team in college hoops.

But it did.

Pearl grabbed two rebounds and took a charge during the next five minutes and Bone drained a 3-pointer. By the time they returned to the bench, the Vols led 55-50 - meaning Kansas whittled just two points off UT's lead while the three walk-ons were on the court.

Ultimately, the ability of the non-scholarship brigade to hold down the fort during that five-minute stretch may have been the key to victory as Tennessee went on to win 76-68.

"That just tells you we've got super walk-ons," sophomore wing Renaldo Woolridge said.

McBee finished with 6 points in 23 minutes. Bone added 3 points, 2 assists and a rebound in 12 minutes at the point. Pearl finished with no points but contributed 3 rebounds and an assist in 10 minutes.

"Steven Pearl did a great job out there today," senior point guard Bobby Maze said. "He got some rebounds and took a key charge. Guys can play on this team, as long as you stick together and don't try to go beyond what you can do. Play your game but don't force things, and things will work out."

Bruce Pearl appreciates the walk-ons' dedication, noting: "Why does Steven Pearl hang in there and take the abuse of having to be in practice all the time and never get out there (in the games) because he's got so many good players in front of him? Because of the opportunity to do something like this - to be out there on the floor and keep it going ... take a charge and maybe get a rebound.

"And understand that Skylar McBee and Josh Bone are good players. They're pretty good players. They're REAL good players."

Bone's 3-point basket actually gave UT its biggest lead of the game at 53-44.

"When Bone knocks down that 3," Bruce Pearl said, "it just gave the rest of the guys so much confidence."

McBee made no statistical contribution while paired with Bone and Pearl but hit the game-clinching basket -- a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring -- that boosted a 71-68 lead to 74-68 with 36 seconds left.

All in all, it was quite an afternoon for the walk-on brigade.

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