CHAPEL HILL, N.C. —Tennessee’s first basketball trip to play North Carolina on its campus since 1948 was indeed one for the ages.
The Vols (4-4) led the mighty Tar Heels (10-1) throughout most of the game at the Dean Smith Center before falling just short, 73-71 on Sunday afternoon.
Lamonte Turner’s shot was blocked by North Carolina’s Tony Bradley, a 6-foot-11 star, with two seconds remaining.
Turner put Tennessee ahead 13-11 with a 3-pointer at the 14:04 mark of the first half, and the Vols led until Stilman White hit a short jumper to tie things up at 50-50 with 13:32 remaining.
The Tar Heels were a 20-point favorite entering the game, as Coach Roy Williams is now 103-6 against non-ACC teams in the Dean Smith Center.
But Tennessee, led by Robert Hubbs lll 21 points, led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
The teams’ most recent meeting before Sunday was in 2006, at the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden, when Williams and the Tar Heels scored a 101-87 victory.
Tennessee’s 44-36 halftime lead on Sunday had represented its best and most exciting 20 minutes of basketball since Bruce Pearl was the head coach.
Not coincidentally, that was also the last time the Vols beat a Top 10 opponent on the road, topping then-No. 3 Pittsburgh in the Steel City 83-76 — six years ago to the day.
Tennessee went up 28-13 when Hubbs lll capped an 18-3 run with a thee-point play.
The Vols shot 65 percent through the first 20 minutes, making 17-of-26 shots including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
Kenny Williams led the Tar Heels with 12 points, and Nate Britt scored 11.
North Carolina out-rebounded Tennessee 41-32, but the Tar Heels were 2-of-17 with the pesky Vols guarding them tightly.
Tennessee was 28-54 shooting (51.9 percent) and hit 12-of-15 free throws while North Carolina was 13-of-24 from the charity stripe.
North Carolina is one of the tallest teams in the NCAA, but it was only outscoring Tennessee 22-20 in the paint at the half.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the rebounding was even at 18-18. The Tar Heels entered the game leading the nation in rebounding margin at plus-15.4
The last time Tennessee won a road game in the opponents’ home arena, however, was in 2008 when the then-No. 2 Vols beat No. 1 Memphis in FedEx Forum, 66-62 on Feb. 23, 2008.
Player of the game for Tennessee basketball
Robert Hubbs lll led the Vols with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and pulled down five rebounds.
Stat line of the game for Tennessee basketball
Hubbs first half was near flawless, as he was 7-of-7 shooting for 15 points with an assist, a rebound and a turnover in his 17 minutes.
Turning point for Tennessee basketball
Brandon Robinson’s tip-in with 56 seconds left gave North Carolina a 72-69 advantage with 56 seconds left.
UT went with the lineup that was previously 3-0: Phillips, Bowden, Hubbs lll, Williams, Fulkerson
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) December 12, 2016
What’s next for Tennessee basketball
Tennessee returns to Thompson-Boling Arena to play Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 71-63 loss at Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday. V