Dagger time

Dagger time

When Charlotte trimmed a 25-point deficit to six last Wednesday, one Tennessee Vol saved the day by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers. When No. 1 Kansas closed to three inside the final minute on Sunday, one Tennessee Vol saved the day by hitting a 3 at the shot-clock buzzer.

Making those clutch buckets especially noteworthy is the fact both were made by the same guy - freshman Skylar McBee. The 6-3 walk-on from Grainger County High has delivered the kill shot - or "dagger" as the players like to say - two games in a row.

Even more amazing than his ability to hit big baskets, though, is his ability to be humble about it.

"I think a lot of people are putting the focus on one or two shots but a lot of people made a lot of plays to put us in position to win those games," McBee said. "J.P. (Prince) came up with two steals at the end of the Kansas game. If not for that it might've been a different story altogether.

"Bobby (Maze) hit a couple of big shots and Scotty (Hopson) took it to the goal. A lot of people made a lot of other plays that put me in a position to hit those shots. I think a lot of focus gets put on those shots because they came at that moment (late) in the game but you've also got to look at what other people did to put us in position to win."

Regardless, McBee's 3-pointer with 36 seconds left vs. Kansas has to rank as one of the most dramatic and important shots in Big Orange history. It almost didn't happen, though. Unaware that the shot clock was down to four seconds when he got the ball, he was looking to pass, not shoot.

"I passed him the ball and I said, 'Shoot it!'" teammate Rernaldo Woolridge recalled. "He looked at the clock and said, 'Oh!'

"Once he released it - his jumper is so pretty - I knew it was going in. And, once it dropped, that was the dagger and everybody went crazy."

Including Vol head coach Bruce Pearl, who later grumbled: "That ball came to him with three or four seconds on the shot clock but it wasn't until the crowd started counting it down that he knocked it down."

McBee readily admits as much, noting that he was unaware how close the shot clock was to expiring.

"I had no clue," he said. "I should've known. When I heard the crowd get up I knew it was close. I glanced up and saw three seconds, so I knew I had to get the shot off. Luckily, I got it to fall."

The game-clinching 3-pointer was not a thing of beauty. After a head fake got the Kansas defender off his feet, McBee leaped to his left and forced an off-balance 20-footer from the left baseline.

"It was like one of those shots you shoot in a game of H-O-R-S-E or before practice," McBee said.

When it swished through the net, however, it didn't spell H-O-R-S-E. It spelled doom for the top-ranked Jayhawks.

"I would say that would definitely have to be the biggest shot I've made in my basketball career," McBee deadpanned.

That's a pretty safe bet.

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