KNOXVILLE — Alabama couldn’t manage another close win Saturday, falling by a point, 54-53, to rival Tennessee.
The Crimson Tide had the ball and a chance in the final seconds, but a controversial no-call denied Alabama, which entered with a four-game win streak, including three by four points or fewer.
The Crimson Tide had possession of the ball with 11.4 seconds left and ran a play for guard Trevor Lacey. Working off a screen, Lacey moved into the left corner and while trying to take a shot, he made contact with Tennessee defender Jarnell Stokes. Lacey couldn’t get the shot off, no call was made and the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant, who smiled in disbelief as Tennessee celebrated on the court, said Lacey had the option of shooting or passing inside to post player Nick Jacobs.
“(Lacey) felt like he could get one off against Stokes, but it just didn’t go our way,” Grant said.
Grant didn’t point to that play as costing Alabama the win but instead mentioned two factors — the Tide made only 5 of 11 foul shots and got outrebounded 37-22 as Stokes led the Vols with 18 rebounds.
“The foul shooting and the rebounding, that was the difference in the game,” Grant said. “Stokes came out and put his foot print on the game. He dominated inside.”
Alabama (12-7, 4-2 SEC) led most of the way and had a 46-39 advantage with six minutes to go. But Tennessee (10-8, 2-4) went on an 11-1 run to take a 50-47 lead.
Lacey nailed a 3-pointer with 1:56 to play to tie the game 50-50. But Tennessee’s Jordan McRae answered with a basket with 1:06 to play, and the Vols led 52-50.
Alabama’s Rodney Cooper missed the front end of a one-and-one, while Tennessee’s Trae Godlen made two foul shots with 31.4 to play. Trevor Releford made a 3-pointer with 18.5 seconds left, and after the Vols’ Golden missed a foul shot, the ball went out of bounds on Tennessee after a scramble for the rebound. That set up Alabama’s final play.
Releford finished with 18 points and five steals for Alabama, while Lacey had 11. McRae had 17 points for Tennessee, while Stokes added 15 points.