The No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers had an absolutely heartbreaking week, suffering back-to-back losses both by buzzer-beating game winning shots. The unthinkable nightmare scenario for Tennessee did not just happen once, it happened twice, and to make matters worse it happened in the same week and in back-to-back games. The Vols had the lead late in both games and seemed to completely fall apart in the closing minutes. The two games were eerily similar down the stretch, which made it even more frustrating for Tennessee fans. Tennessee went through a season’s worth of ups and downs in one week.
Going into Wednesday the Vols were trying to make it twelve straight against instate rival Vanderbilt. Tennessee has been struggling as of late, however the Vols were heavy favorites to beat the Commodores. Vanderbilt came out the gates red hot and shot the ball incredibly well. Tennessee was not playing the best game, but it still felt like the Vols were in control for most of the game. The Vols had a two point lead in the final minute of the game when critical mistakes were made that cost the Vols. Tennessee missed the front end of a 1-and-1 which gave Vanderbilt a chance to win it with a three or to send it to overtime with a made basket. As time expired, Vanderbilt’s Tyrin Lawrence knocked down a wide open corner three to upset the Vols. Tennessee lost a heartbreaker 66-65.
Tennessee was looking for revenge after the heartbreaker in Nashville. The Vols were back home to play a very good Missouri team. Early on, it was not pretty for the Vols as the Tigers knocked down three after three and Mizzou took a fourteen point lead in the first half. The Vols were already without senior Josiah Jordan James, then freshman Julian Phillips left the game early with a hip injury. Even without two starters, Tennessee fought all the way back from a seventeen point deficit and took the lead with seven minutes to play. From that point on it seemed like the Vols were in complete control. In almost the exact same situation as the Vanderbilt game, the Vols could have closed out the game with little time remaining, but yet again Tennessee just could not finish the game. The Vols were up two with four seconds to play and shooting a pair of free throws to close out the game. Tennessee missed the front end and then had a line violation called on the second. All the Vols needed to do was make two free throws and the game is all but over, but they ended up going 0-2 at the line giving Missouri a chance to win. As time expired, Missouri’s DeAndre Gholston made an unbelievable shot from just inside half court to give Missouri an 86-85 victory.
The question is, how does Tennessee respond now? The Vols just as easily could have won both of these games and would have been in the top 4 again fighting for a 1 seed, but they did not so now they are fighting to keep their season afloat.
Tennessee 19-6 (8-4)
@ Texas A&M
Tennessee has no time to feel sorry for themselves. The Vols host No. 3 Alabama on Wednesday night, then the Vols travel to Lexington to play Kentucky on Saturday. After the week Tennessee just had, this team will either learn from their mistakes and make this team closer, or this week will tear this team apart. I still believe in this team, however the Vols will need to have a huge bounce back week and get hot at the right time. Tennessee will likely fall out of the top ten, however per ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Vols are still a 2 seed even after this nightmare of a week. Tennessee has a tough stretch to end the year so the Vols need a quick turnaround or else their season could spiral out of control.