The 2019-20 Vols honed composure, overcoming an early deficit to defeat their hated rival to 5-4 in the SEC.
The Vols impressive comeback was led by a team-high and career-high 22 points from John Fulkerson.
Yves Pons helped the cause by amassing 14 points and 14 boards for a double-double.
Despite starting 0-6 from the floor, Jordan Bowden exploded for 20 points in the second half to help seal the Vols’ victory.
To start things off, the Vols were without Josiah Jordan-James for the second consecutive game (groin injury).
Through the first 10 minutes, Tennessee continued their recent shooting woes going 1-9 from the floor (1-6 from deep).
In the same stretch, Alabama added salt to the wound as they went 5-10 from three.
By the 7:25 minute mark, Jordan Bowden, Santiago Vescovi, and Uroš Plavśić were a combined 2-18 from the floor.
Consequently, the Vols quickly fell into a 15 point hole.
It was their defense that kept them in the game.
Tennessee forced Alabama to commit 12 first-half turnovers half, which included eight steals.
The Vols held their composure, but badly needed some help on the offensive end—enter John Fulkerson.
Fulkerson nearly erased the Vols deficit himself, scoring a team-high 14 points on a perfect 6-6 from the floor.
A Fulkerson-led 8-2 run closed the first half, and the Vols found themselves within eight of the Tide.
Tennessee went into the locker room only down 32-40.
VOLS’ 2ND HALF GRIND
Opening up the second half, Tennessee made a point to continue to get the ball inside.
Conversely, Alabama picked up where they left off, as Vescovi forced another turnover only 2 seconds into the half.
Following Vescovi and Yves Pons made lay-ups, the Vols saw the lead shrink to four.
One Crimson Tide three-pointer began a 3:36 long stretch that totaled a whopping zero points for either squad.
As Tennessee fed the post, fouls began to mount in their favor against Alabama.
Although the deficit grew back to 10 points, the Vols continued to chip away at the lead at the free-throw line.
Once Tennessee began to close the gap, the contest quickly became a back-and-forth affair.
With 9:16 left, Fulkerson nailed two free throws to give Tennessee their first lead since the score was 3-2.
Back-and-forth they went, with neither team leading by more than four the rest of the way.
With under 5 minutes remaining, the Vols gained an edge with Javian Davis and Alex Reese fouling-out for the Crimson Tide.
The Vols took advantage and built a four-point lead twice in the final minutes, and Alabama ultimately ran out of gas.
Pons knocked down two free throws in the final 10 seconds to push the lead to four, completing the comeback.
Tennessee finished 23-32 from the charity stripe to notch a road win over a rival—an impressive win the Vols desperately needed.
Fittingly enough, the last time Tennessee overcame a 15 point deficit to win a game was two years ago, against Alabama.
The win certainly adds some intrigue to Tennessee’s home showdown versus Kentucky on Saturday.