KNOXVILLE, TENN. | In front of a crowd of 21,948, the Alabama Crimson Tide (15-7, 7-1) defeated the Tennessee Volunteers (15-8, 5-3) 65-60 in an overtime thriller in Thompson-Boling Arena. In the five minutes of overtime, Alabama’s 10 points all came off three throws, which was enough to notch the victory on Saturday.
“I feel like this was a great win for our team,” said head coach Anthony Grant. “Today, we played probably one of the more physical teams that we’ve played in a long time. The intensity of the game was tremendous. I think our guys answered the call in terms of the intensity that we played with.”
Sophomore Tony Mitchell topped his career-high points with 24 points in the game, with his previous career high at 23 that he notched Wednesday against Mississippi State.
“I thought he was outstanding today,” Grant said. “He made some big shots for us and did a good job on the glass.”
At the half, Alabama held a 38-27 lead over the Volunteers, despite getting off to a slow start. The Tide took its first lead 10 minutes into the half with a basket from Mitchell to give Alabama a 15-4 lead.
After that, the Tide took over despite the hostile environment. Whenever Tennessee would come up with a much-needed basket, Alabama would answer them back with one.
Mitchell led the scoring in the first half with 13 points, even though he didn’t start this game. The team shot 67 percent of its field goals, while the defense held Tennessee to only 37 percent of its field goals, going 11-for-30.
At the start of the second half, it took three minutes for the score to change, but two Tennessee free throws cut Alabama’s lead to nine. Mitchell got the Tide’s first two points of the half with a field goal five minutes in.
Though Alabama held the lead for a while, the team didn’t score for minutes at a time as Tennessee kept getting into the paint.
With 36 seconds left in the game, Tennessee tied it at 55. It was Alabama’s ball, but JaMychal Green lost control of the ball as it rolled out of bounds giving Tennessee the last shot. On three attempts, the Vols couldn’t score, so the game went into overtime.
Alabama was perfect in free throws in overtime, getting 10-of-10, six from Green, two from Trevor Releford and two from Mitchell.
“It’s really big to go down in a hostile environment like this and knock down two big free throws to seal the game,” Mitchell said.
For the game, Tennessee made 35 percent of its field goals, while Alabama had 43 percent. The Vols out-rebounded Alabama 48-33, with the Tide only getting two points off a second chance. However, Alabama’s 40 points in the paint and 14-of-19 free throws were enough to give the Tide a victory.
Next up for Alabama is another road test against No. 24 Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday night with tipoff at 8 p.m.