Seemingly unable to solve Ole Miss' 2-3 zone, the second-seeded Vols launched 34 of their 64 field-goal attempts from behind the 3-point line and wound up shooting an icy 28.1 percent (18 of 64) en route to a 77-72 overtime loss to the seventh-seeded Rebels in the 2012 tourney quarterfinals.
Ole Miss, now 20-12, will play in Saturday's semifinals against Vanderbilt, which beat Georgia 63-41 in another quarterfinal. Tennessee, now 18-14, is probably relegated to a berth in the NIT, despite winning eight of its last 10 games.
The Big Orange sank 25 of 33 foul shots Friday night, won the backboards 49-41 and committed just 12 turnovers. These positives were undermined by its horrendous shooting, though, as Ole Miss made nine more field goals (27) and outscored Tennessee 38-12 on points in the paint.
"Ole Miss did a good job of using their length in the zone," Vol coach Cuonzo Martin said on the post-game show. "We missed some shots. I didn't think we did a very good job of dribble-penetrating against their zone and also consistently trying to get the ball inside. But I'm not sure our big guys posted aggressively like they need to."
Skylar McBee banked home a desperation 3-point shot with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 61 and send the game into overtime. Freshman Jarnell Stokes made a layup for the first basket of the extra period but Ole Miss exploited two Vol turnovers and scored the next nine points to go up 70-63 with 1:35 left.
McBee hit a 3 to close the gap to 70-66 but Reginald Buckner answered with a tip-in for Ole Miss. Jordan McRae made one of two free throws for the Vols but Terrance Henry drained two of two for the Rebels. McBee hit yet another 3 to narrow the gap to 74-70. After Ole Miss' LeDarius White missed two free throws with 25.4 seconds left, Stokes hit a pair to whittle the deficit to 74-72 with 14.5 seconds remaining.
Tennessee got a bad break at this point. Numerous replays confirmed that Josh Richardson deflected Ole Miss' inbounds pass off the forehead of Henry and out of bounds near the Vol bench with 13.5 seconds left. The official ruled the ball out of bounds off Tennessee, however.
Ole Miss successfully inbounded the ball on its second try, and Henry drained two crucial free throws with 11.6 seconds left, bumping the lead to 76-72 and sealing the outcome.
"We were fighting to stay alive," McBee said. "No matter how ugly or how pretty it is, you're trying to get to the next round. It just happened there in overtime that we didn't play as well as we needed to to get the win."
Tennessee's first-half shooting was almost comically bad as the Vols made just 3 of their first 20 field-goal tries. Senior Cameron Tatum was 3 of 5 at this point, the rest of the team 0 of 15. Incredibly, Tennessee trailed just 19-16 and actually rallied to tie the score at 28-all by intermission.
After making just 6 of 26 shots in the first half, Tennessee projected to warm up considerably after the break. It didn't. The Vols continued to struggle against the zone, sinking just 12 of 38 attempts in the second half and the overtime period.
"I thought we had some good looks," Martin said. "They just didn't fall."
After making a mere 3 of 12 shots from 3 in the first half, the Vols warmed up a bit, sinking 8 of 22 thereafter.
"I thought in the first half we were shooting deep 3s," Martin said, "as opposed to being on the 3-point line."
Tennessee pulled down 21 offensive rebounds but struggled to score on putbacks against a Rebel frontline that blocked seven shots.
"We just couldn't finish," Martin said.
"They beat us at playing their game, dribble penetration," Martin said of the Rebels. "They played to their strengths and we just didn't make shots. We had a lot of good looks. They just didn't fall for us."