March 8, 2009
|Vol Network Wyndham|
Players of the Game: Vol Seniors
By: Josh Battle
How better to show appreciation on Senior Day than by naming all three of Tennessee's veterans as Player of the Game. For seniors Ryan Childress, Tanner Wild and Justin Jackson, it was a bitter sweet Senior Day as the Alabama Crimson Tide upset the Vols with a three-point shot at the buzzer to take the game 70-67.
However, despite the loss, the three veterans received repeated ovations from the remaining crowd following the game. While their presence on the court this season has been limited, each player has sought to contribute through hard work and dedication in practice as well as in the locker room, serving as this team's vocal and emotional leaders.
Their character and humility was on full display following post-game interviews as each remained on the court to return their appreciation to some of the Big Orange's youngest fans. The selflessness of Childress, Wild and Jackson was demonstrated as they spent 20 minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures, even as their own families waited in the corridors.
While each player undoubtedly has countless memories from their time spent on Rocky Top, what they most wished to express here at the end their careers is their gratitude and overall appreciation to the Tennessee fans.
Ryan Childress: "I just want to say thank you to everybody from the state of Tennessee for supporting me and all those that have supported the Vols, especially the students. They've really allowed me to live out my dream of college basketball at the highest level and I really appreciate it."
Tanner Wild: "I want to thank the fans for everything. Every time I've come in to the games, they've been there cheering and supporting me and I want to thank them for everything they've done for me."
Justin Jackson: "I just want to say thank you to all the fans that have supported me during my time here at Tennessee. They've always been so great and cheered so loudly and I want them to know how much I've appreciated all their support. I'm grateful to each fan."
Their accomplishments include:
96 wins are most ever by a UT senior class. No other class won more than 89 (2001)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Anthony Brock missed his flight from Little Rock, Ark., to Knoxville on Saturday after attending his grandmother's funeral. Good thing he didn't miss the game.
Brock hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to secure Alabama's 70-67 upset of Tennessee on Sunday.
"We had a flight for him ... and he missed it so he drove all night to get here," Alabama coach Philip Pearson said. "The first time I saw him was about 8:30 this morning and he said, 'Hey, what's up coach?' His cousin drove him all the way to Knoxville.
"I've got to meet this cousin."
The win was the Crimson Tide's fourth in the final five games of a regular season that included the midseason departure of coach Mark Gottfried, who resigned on Jan. 26 amid criticism of both the team's play and departure of a star player.
Alabama (17-13, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) had been picked to win the SEC West but instead finishes as the No. 4 seed in the division, setting it up for a matchup with Vanderbilt in the conference tournament on Thursday.
Tennessee (19-11, 10-6) had already clinched a share of the SEC East title after winning three straight, including Thursday's victory at South Carolina, but the loss means a shared title with the Gamecocks.
"We wanted the outright SEC East title," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Vols had grabbed a 67-65 lead on a fastbreak dunk by Scotty Hopson with 1:43 left. The Tide called a timeout, and Alonzo Gee hit a jumper from the free-throw line to tie the game at 67 with 1:15 left.
Tennessee's Bobby Maze missed a 3-pointer, but the teams tied the ball up on the rebound and Tennessee retained possession. The Vols ran the clock down, and the game appeared headed to overtime when Tyler Smith missed a shot with about five seconds left and let the rebound go out of bounds.
Brock plowed through traffic out of Alabama's timeout and hit the game-winning shot -- his only of the second half -- as he tripped near the top of the key. He finished with 11 points.
"I was shocked. I've never hit a game-winner before," Brock said.
Senario Hillman led Alabama with 16 points and Mikhail Torrance added 12 points. JaMychal Green grabbed 10 rebounds.
Wayne Chism led Tennessee with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Smith added 11 and Maze finished with 10.
The Crimson Tide dominated the first half after scoring eight straight points. A jumper by Alonzo Gee gave the Tide a 29-18 lead with 5:20 left before halftime, and Alabama took a 39-29 lead into the break.
"We just never got out of bed," Pearl said.
The Vols used an 11-0 run early in the second half to cut the Tide's lead to 43-42 with 16:07 left. Back-to-back 3s by Chism and Cameron Tatum gave the Vols a 52-48 lead with 4:44 left and the teams remained neck-and-neck for the rest of the game.
Tennessee could have grabbed control of the game with better free-throw shooting. The Vols could only manage 10 of 22 from the charity stripe compared to the Tide's 16-for-19 performance at the line.
"It was tough. We just didn't come out with any energy," Smith said. "That's the way we had come out in the last three games -- with energy -- and we just didn't tonight."
Alabama is one of only two SEC schools that leads its all-time series with Tennessee, and now holds a 72-63 advantage after winning eight of the last 11 against the Vols. It's the Tide's 20th win in Knoxville.
Pearson finishes the regular season 5-6 after Gottfried opened the season 12-7.
"It was big for us to get this win so we have our confidence (in the tournament)," Gee said.