It was a grizzly finish for the Tennessee men's basketball team Tuesday night.
The Oakland Golden Grizzlies rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to score an 89-82 upset over the No. 7-ranked Vols before an announced crowd of 16,784 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"They've knocked on the door, knocked on the door with a lot of people, and they finally knocked one down,'' UT coach Bruce Pearl said, referring to Oakland (6-5) holding leads in losses to Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State earlier this season.
"Bottom line, we didn't guard our yard,'' said Pearl, 40-3 against non-conference opponents in Thompson-Boling Arena during his six-year tenure. "They drove by our guards too easily, with the exception of Melvin, and we didn't have our identity; our identity is defense and rebounding.''
Oakland center Keith Benson, a 6-foot-11 projected first-round NBA draft pick, led the Golden Grizzlies with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Oakland out-rebounded the Vols 36-35, and out-shot UT from the field, .536 to .444.
Tennessee was particularly flat in the second half, shooting 34 percent from the floor, including 0-for-10 beyond the 3-point arc and 10-for-19 from the foul line.
"Top 10 teams, when they get teams down they step on their throats, and we didn't do that,'' Williams said. "That's why we're not a great team yet.
"As soon as we got down, we panicked . . . we didn't stick to our game plan, offensively or defensively, and we lost the game because of it.''
The largest deficit the Vols faced prior to Tuesday night's game was three points. Pearl had expressed concern over the past week over how the team might respond when trailing.
Oakland went on a 13-0 run from the 6:58 mark of the second half until there was 1:56 left to play in building a five-point lead.
The Vols failed to score a field goal between the 8:24 mark, when they were up 73-66, and the 1:56 mark, when a Goins transition layup cut the Grizzlies' lead to 81-78.
"Our halftime adjustment was to keep the ball in front of us; we didn't want them driving by us,'' Oakland coach Greg Kempe said. "We just said at the half we have to get back and defend, and get our rebounds.''
Tennessee made only two of seven shots from the foul line over the final 6:45, and the Vols were 2-of-15 shooting from the field over the final 8 1/2 minutes.
Oakland made it a point to stop SEC player of the week Scotty Hopson, holding the Vols' shooting guard to seven points on 1-of-7 shooting after his career-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting in UT's 83-76 win over then-No. 3 Pittsburgh on Saturday.
"Before the game we talked about the law of averages, and (Hopson) made just about every shot he took against Pitt,'' Kampe said. "He couldn't keep making them at that rate - no one could - so we just wanted to push him out a little bit further and not give Hopson any easy shots.''
UT held a 50-39 halftime lead despite Benson striking for 20 of his points in the first 20 minutes.
The Vols offset the Oakland star with balance and efficiency.
Goins and Tatum scored 11 points apiece through the first 20 minutes, and Harris and Williams each had 10.
UT players also combined to go 12-for-12 from the foul line before the half.
Oakland led much of the first half until Harris hit a turnaround jumper to tie the game at 31 at the 6:45 mark and trigger a 14-2 Vols run.
Goins capped the spurt with a bucket in transition that gave the Vols a 43-33 lead with 3:23 left before halftime.
Will Hudson (17 points) scored on a putback on the Grizzlies' ensuing possession at the 2:50 mark, giving Oakland its first field goal in nearly five minutes.
It was a sign of things to come in the second half.
"Hudson had six offensive rebounds, that's at the four (position) where we had Tobias, (Steven) Pearl and Kenny Hall,'' Bruce Pearl said. "We had prepared anticipating that (Jeronne) Maymon would play.''
When Harris left the game with his fourth foul, with 6:58 left to play, the Grizzles went on their decisive 13-0 run. Hudson (6-9, 235) had five of those points
Maymon, a 6-7, 258-pound power forward, is eligible as of today, Pearl said. The sophomore transfer appealed for eligibility after passing his fall semester classes and getting documentation from teachers that his grades wouldn't be changed. The UT office of the provost denied the request, saying grades aren't official until today.
The Vols return to action at 8 p.m. Friday at Charlotte (4-6).