DALLAS — There was no justice for Tennessee’s Jordan Bone, who saved one of his best performances for the final game of his team’s otherwise magical season.
The Vols’ explosive point guard scored 13 points and dished 5 assists with no turnovers, but Bone’s last-second shot from the top of the key rattled out in a 63-62 loss to Loyola-Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Bone sat at his locker room stall for several minutes, towel draped over his head, before talking with the media.
“This is tough, man. I’ve never felt this kind of pain before,” Bone said. “It’s so hard, it’s over.”
SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes, whose team won a share of the league crown and finished ranked No. 13 after being picked to finish 13th in the conference, was proud of Bone’s effort.
“Jordan played a good game, and he played hard,” Barnes said. “It’s the emotional part of it because we guarded it, and then they made a tough shot.”
The No. 3 seed Vols (26-9) nearly extended their remarkable season, rallying from 9 points down with 3½ minutes left to reclaim the lead at 62-61 with 20 seconds to go on Grant Williams conventional three-point play.
The No. 11 seed Missouri Valley Conference Ramblers, who set a school record with their 30th victory, brought the ball up court to set up the game-winning shot and nearly turned it over.
The officials reviewed a loose ball play at midcourt and ruled it went off Williams with 10.5 seconds left.
Ramblers guard Clayton Custer took the inbounds pass with Bone guarding him closely and drove to the edge of the lane before stopping, twisting, and turning in mid-air as he shot.
The ball rattled around and fell through the rim with 3.6 seconds left.
Tennessee inbounded to Bone, who raced up the court and got off a clean look from the top of the key that rattled out.
“All we had to get was get one stop, and it didn’t go in our favor,” said Bone, who had 2 of the Vols’ 8 steals. “I came down and the ball didn’t bounce the right way.”
Admiral Schofield led Tennessee with 14 points, scoring 11 in the first 5 minutes as the Vols raced to a 15-6 lead.
But it was Bone, who scored 13 points, who kept Tennessee in the game when the offense was struggling.
Bone scored Tennessee’s final two baskets of the first half on a 3-pointer and a jumper when the Ramblers were threatening to run away, keeping the margin 29-25 at intermission.
Barnes identified Bone as one of two X-factors in the tourney, but he did not play well in the Vols’ 73-47 opening-round win over Wright State.
On Friday, Bone vowed he was ready for the challenge that the rest of the tournament would present.
The Nashville product knew exactly what he needed to do after Custer’s shot fell through in the final seconds.
“I looked up, and we had over 3 seconds left, and I just wanted to go coast to coast and get a good look,” Bone said.
“I didn’t think I had time to pass it, they were denying Lamonte [Turner], so I was trying to get the best look possible and it didn’t go in. It’s all over man, it’s all over.”
Bone stared down at the floor the remainder of the 40-minute open locker room, a nightmarish March Madness memory if ever there was one.