TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Trae Golden’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim as Alabama held off the Vols, 68-65, at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. A 10-0 Crimson Tide run late in the second half proved to be the difference as Alabama (9-6, 1-1) picked up its first SEC win of 2013.
The Vols (8-6, 0-2 SEC) dropped their third game in a row.
“I told the guys after the game – minus the turnovers – that’s the way I see Tennessee basketball playing,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We played with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of passion, but came up short. Give those guys (Alabama) a lot of credit. They defended their homecourt and found ways to win the game. They stepped it up defensively and made plays the way they needed to.”
Junior swingman Jordan McRae led the Vols in scoring for the third game in a row, tallying 21. He was the Vols’ only double-figure scorer.
Trevor Releford scored all 15 of his points in the second half, including two free throws that sealed the game with 7.5 seconds left. Trevor Lacey also had 15 for the Crimson Tide. Levi Randolph (12) and Andrew Steele (11) also scored in double-figures.
No team led by more than eight points for the entire game.
McRae’s layup with 7.7 seconds left brought the Vols within one at 66-65. Releford made two free throws with 7.5 left to gave the Tide a 68-65 lead.
But Golden’s 3-point attempt didn’t drop and the Vols fell in Tuscaloosa for the second year in a row.
Freshman point guard Armani Moore had his biggest impact this season with a career-high tying seven points in a career-high 21 points.
“Offensively, (Moore) is aggressive off the bounce, but he turns the ball over in those situations,” Martin said. “But he has done a really good job the last few weeks of taking care of the basketball, while playing defense without fouling. That’s why he was on the floor. He has earned those minutes.”
Moore knocked down his first college 3-pointer to give the Vols a 46-45 lead with 10:44 left in the game. Skylar McBee canned another 3-ball for a 49-47 Vols lead.
Releford, who was 0-for-3 from the floor in the first half, scored eight of the Tide’s first 10 points of the second half to put Alabama ahead 34-32 four minutes into the period.
The Vols led 28-24 at halftime behind 10 points from McRae, who finished the half with two free throws in the final seconds. Tennessee scored the final six points of the half.
Tennessee used a 7-0 run to extend a 13-12 lead to 20-12 keyed by a 3-pointer from Derek Reese with 8:55 left in the first half.
Alabama answered with its own run of 10-0 to take a 22-20 lead on an Andrew Steele jumper with 2:39 left in the first half. That bucket brought a drought of three minutes for Alabama after Rodney Cooper tied the game at 20.
The Vols had a scoreless spell of more than six minutes before Josh Richardson re-tied the game at 22 with 2:06 left in the first half.
The Vols continue two-game road swing at Kentucky on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. That game will air on ESPN and can he heard on the Vol Network.