Feb. 27, 2010
BY JOSH PATE UTSports.com
J.P. Prince motioned for Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl to calm down. Pearl was on the sideline barking orders to his men in orange as the Vols were attempting to upset No. 2 Kentucky. But Prince tried to cool Pearl.
"He thought we were panicking," Prince said. "I told him, `Coach, we're fine. I'm cool. Everything will be fine.' I just told him to give us a chance. I always tell him, `I'll give you everything I've got, Coach.'
Minutes later, Prince displayed the calmness he was preaching to his coach when his winning basket effectively shut down the Wildcat's ferocious comeback. With the game tied and having scored just one basket in a three-minute span, the No. 19 Vols turned to Prince and the rest of the upper classmen. And they delivered to give Tennessee a 74-65 upset victory over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee (21-7, 9-5 SEC) led the Wildcats (27-2, 12-2 SEC) by as many as 19 points when they went up 54-35 on a Cameron Tatum 3-pointer with 14:05 remaining. But Kentucky chipped away in huge chunks with a 13-2 run midway through the second half. So when UK tied the game at 65, Pearl immediately called timeout.
"When it went 65-65, I thought we were winning," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "There was no question in my mind we were winning this game."
The Tennessee bench had a different vibe.
"Everybody was quiet," Wayne Chism said. "We weren't panicked or anything. We knew they were going to come back. So we just relaxed."
Pearl set forth his orders.
"I told them, `Let's run our Continuity (play) and I want to get a good chance to get the ball to the basket,'" Pearl said.
Prince, who was already leading the Vols in scoring, caught a Scotty Hopson pass under the basket and laid it in to give UT a 67-65 advantage.
After a turnover by Kentucky's John Wall, UT senior Bobby Maze found Hopson open on the wing for a 3-pointer to make it 70-65.
Coming out of a UK timeout, Prince became the floor coach. He was pointing fellow senior Brian Williams to the proper position on the floor. Prince and Chism were relaying the defensive setup that Pearl had orchestrated during the timeout.
Pearl just watched. It was precisely what he wanted from his seniors.
"Put it on experienced players," Pearl said of how he approached the final two minutes of the game after Kentucky had tied it. "Put it on the seniors. Put it on Bobby, J.P. and Wayne. At that point, that's what seniors are supposed to do."
The encouragement from the coach and seniors worked. Williams took a charge in the paint when Wall drove the lane, turning the ball over to the Vols with 28.9 seconds on the clock. Kentucky reverted to fouling, and they found the right guy in Prince. He was shooting 60 percent entering the game.
The pressure, however, didn't get to Prince. He went 4-of-4 down the stretch from the line and finished with a game-high 20 points.
"You've got to make them in the clutch," Prince said of his foul shooting. "You've got to man up. You've got to make plays. You knew they were going to come back eventually.
"I told (Pearl) this week, just ride us to death, let us play, put it on us because we can lead the way. Me and Wayne have been through the battles and been through a lot of wars. Let me and Wayne lead the way. We've been here a long time and seen everything. So just ride us through this last stretch."
Pearl did, and his seniors didn't let him down.
"I told the team, `How do you want this season to be remembered?'" Pearl said. "It's not going to be a great year unless we beat Kentucky. If we beat Kentucky, we've got a chance to have a great year. When you've got seniors like Wayne, J.P. and Bobby, they take ownership in that."