KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Tyler Smith did just what Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl wanted done with the Volunteers’ Southeastern Conference opener against undefeated Mississippi on the line.
“He took it right to the basket. He stuck it up their nose,” Pearl said.
Smith’s layup with 4.2 seconds to play gave No. 8 Tennessee an 85-83 victory over No. 16 Mississippi on Wednesday night.
With the score tied at 83, Ole Miss missed several shots but grabbed four rebounds before JaJuan Smith fouled Kenny Williams with 31 seconds left.
JaJuan Smith rebounded the missed free throw and the Vols (13-1) moved the ball around until Tyler Smith’s layup.
Tyler Smith said he knew Pearl wouldn’t call a timeout to prepare for a possible game-winning shot, which meant someone on the court had to execute.
“No matter what, it was going to be a foul or a basket,” he said.
The Rebels (13-1), who entered the game as one of Division I’s last six undefeated teams, were unable to get off a final shot.
Tennessee took a 72-60 lead with 11 minutes left on a free throw by Tyler Smith. But Ole Miss chipped away at that lead with a 23-7 run that ended on a jumper by Eniel Polynice that put the Rebels up 83-79 with 2:22 left.
Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith hit consecutive jump shots to tie the game at 83.
“We’re way beyond moral victories,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. “Our guys are crushed. I’ve got grown men crying in there.”
Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith both had 21 points for Tennessee, while Chris Lofton finished with 10. Chism grabbed eight rebounds.
Freshman Chris Warren led Mississippi with 24 points, but said he wasn’t satisfied to leave Knoxville without a win.
“I’m not happy if we don’t win,” he said. “It’s not how we wanted it to come out. We came ready to play.”
Polynice added 20 points and Dwayne Curtis finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Three-pointers by Lofton and JaJuan Smith put Tennessee up 38-30. Ole Miss responded with a 9-0 run to take a one-point lead on a basket by Curtis.
Tennessee shot 47.1 percent from the field, while the Rebels hit 43.7 percent. The Vols went 46.2 percent from behind the arc, while Ole Miss hit 32 percent of its 3-point attempts.
The Rebels outrebounded the Vols 44-39 and scored 23 second-chance points.
“The stat sheet looks awfully good offensively,” Pearl said. “It’s hard to beat opponents though when they get 20 points off rebounds.”