Hopson, Chism lead No. 8 Vols past Alabama, 63-56
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—Wayne Chism and No. 8 Tennessee went into survival mode again.
Chism scored all 11 of his points over the final 7 minutes and the Volunteers held off Alabama for a 63-56 victory on Tuesday night, the second straight game where the senior center has had to come up big at the end for the short-handed team.
That makes perfect sense to coach Bruce Pearl.
“When the game’s on the line, you go to Wayne,” Pearl said. “He was the best player on the floor and it showed.”
Chism made six consecutive free throws in overtime to preserve a 71-69 win over Mississippi on Saturday, but spent much of this one on the bench with early foul trouble.
Scotty Hopson scored 17 points and the Vols (15-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame poor shooting by making it an even tougher night for the Crimson Tide shooters.
Tennessee held Alabama (11-7, 1-3) to only one basket in the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds and made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
The Vols shot 39 percent and were held to their fewest points since scoring 57 against DePaul on Nov. 22. But they limited Alabama to 38 percent and held leading scorer Mikhail Torrance to three points.
“I felt like we had an opportunity with the (eighth)-ranked team in our building to come out and get a signature win for our team,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said. “We put ourselves in a position where we had opportunities and we weren’t able to capitalize on those opportunities.
“Some of their veterans really stepped up in the second half and made the plays they needed to make.”
The Vols are now 5-0 playing without four players either suspended or dismissed following their Jan. 1 arrests.
Chism’s minutes were limited by early foul trouble, but he took over inside at the end and scored 11 of Tennessee’s final 14 points.
“He made some plays down the stretch that were difference makers,” Grant said.
Tennessee’s 11-point lead was starting to dwindle when he hit a shot and a free throw for his first points with 7:13 to play to make it 52-42. Then the Vols went to him inside for their next two baskets as well, and he scored four points over the final 1:05 on a basket and two free throws to send Alabama to its third straight loss.
Torrance hit 1 of 2 foul shots with 1:22 remaining to end a 2-minute scoring drought in the game and cut Tennessee’s lead to 56-53.
But Chism and Bobby Maze each hit two free throws in the final minute to end any Tide hopes of an upset.
Chism was coming off a season-best 26-point performance against Mississippi but played only five minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
Hopson accounted for all three of Tennessee’s 3-pointers after making just 4 of 15 shots against the Rebels.
“I put it on my shoulders to try to step up,” he said. “I think I was due for a good job shooting.”
Kenny Hall added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Vols.
JaMychal Green led Alabama with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but had five turnovers and was only 6-of-15 shooting. He also was hard on himself over Chism’s late success.
“In crunch time, Chism got two baskets off me,” Green said.
Tony Mitchell had 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
Torrance went 1-of-9 shooting after coming in averaging nearly 16 points a game. His only field goal came on a steal and dunk moments before Chism got hot.
“They came in with a gameplan to load up on him and force him to do other things, other than what he’s accustomed to,” Grant said. “In the first half, he did a good job of distributing the ball and finding the open guys. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a very good job of converting some of those opportunities.”
The Vols finished the first half with a flourish but still trailed 25-24. Hall darted through the middle for a putback dunk at the buzzer.
It was Tennessee’s second lowest first-half total of the season, topping only a 20-point performance against Southern California. Pearl said he emphasized his faith in this team with his halftime message.
“I’ve had other Tennessee teams that after we played that poorly in the first half, we’d have been done but this team continues to defend,” Pearl said. “We showed some toughness and some fortitude.”