JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Tennessee needed a hard-earned road victory to confidence entering SEC play next week, and a fired-up East Tennessee State setting offered the perfect opportunity.
The Vols (7-5) pulled out a 72-68 victory over the Bucs (9-3) before a sell-out crowd of 6,149 at Freedom Hall.
It was the first time the Vols played men’s basketball in Johnson City since 1963, when they played on the East Tennessee campus at Brooks Gymnasium.
The Bucs were a 4-point favorite entering the game, having won seven of their previous eight, including a 67-65 win at Mississippi State last week.
Tennessee’s Detrick Mostella scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including a back-breaking jump shot with 28.2 seconds left that gave UT a 69-65 lead.
Vols’ freshman post Grant Wiliams was a defensive force down the stretch, getting three of his four blocked shots over the final 4 1/2 minutes.
Tennessee held a 32-23 lead at the half, hitting its final seven shots the final four minutes to break open a 14-14 game.
Mostella hit the last five for the Vols, including three straight 3-pointers for nine of his 16 points in the first half.
Tennessee endured a 5:35 scoring drought before Robert Hubbs scored his first points of the game on a turnaround in the lane to tie the game at 12-12 at the 7:15 mark.
Player of the game
Mostella’s back-breaking jump shot was proceeded by him calmly sinking two free throws on UT’s previous possession with 1:11 left, giving the Vols a 67-65 lead at that time.
Stat line of the game
Tennessee’s bench out-scored East Tennessee’s, 43-15, with Mostella doing most of the damage.
Mostella’s two free throws with 1:11 remaining amid a loud, fired-up atmosphere gave Tennessee a 67-65 lead and provided a calming effect for the Vols, who had missed four of their previous eight free throws.
What’s next for Tennessee basketball
The Vols will break for the holiday before returning to action at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Texas A&M in College Station.
Tennessee vs. East Tennessee State boxscore
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) December 23, 2016
Here’s that Kyle Alexander dunk, frame by frame. https://t.co/9lz75iX20l
— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) December 23, 2016