KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Grant Williams scored 21 points, and No. 3 Tennessee rallied past Alabama 71-68 on Saturday for its 12th straight win and a chance to climb atop the AP Top 25.
After No. 1 Duke lost to Syracuse on Monday and No. 2 Michigan fell at Wisconsin on Saturday, the Volunteers (16-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) could lead the poll Monday for the first time since 2008.
After winning its first four SEC games by an average of 25 points, Tennessee had a much tougher time with the Crimson Tide. John Petty matched a career high with 30 points, and Alabama (11-6, 2-3) erased a 15-point deficit to lead late in the second half. But Petty also had a critical turnover in the closing seconds.
Tennessee led 69-68 when Williams was called for an offensive foul after leaning into Alabama’s Donta Hall with 11.3 seconds left. After a timeout, Alabama worked the ball to Petty, who traveled as he began his drive with 3.2 seconds left.
Lamonte’ Turner made two free throws to extend Tennessee’s lead to 71-68 with 2.5 seconds left. Alabama had no timeouts remaining, and the Tide’s Kira Lewis Jr. wasn’t even to midcourt when he launched a desperation shot that didn’t come close.
Admiral Schofield had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee, and he made the basket that put the Vols ahead for good with 2:12 left. Jordan Bowden scored 12 points, and Jordan Bone added 10.
Hall had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Lewis added 12 points.
Former Tennessee star Tony White, who is battling leukemia, attended Saturday’s game and received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd when he was introduced at midcourt during a timeout. White’s 51-point performance against Auburn in February 1984 remains Tennessee’s single-game scoring record.
Alabama: Free-throw shooting doomed the Tide. Alabama was 4 of 13 from the free-throw line in the second half.
Tennessee: The Volunteers last won 12 straight in 1976-77, when they went 22-6 and earned a share of the SEC regular-season title. Williams showed why he’s an All-America candidate as he made numerous big plays on both ends of the floor down the stretch, including blocking Petty’s 3-point attempt in the closing minutes.
Alabama hosts No. 18 Mississippi on Tuesday.
Tennessee is at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.