Strange: Three get to be part of golden moment this time

Mike Strange

If a golden moment comes along in a basketball season, you don't want to miss it. There probably won't be a second chance.

When Tennessee upset No. 1 Kansas on Jan. 10, Brian Williams was bunkered in his dorm room. Just him and his TV.

He could almost literally hear the din emanating from Thompson-Boling Arena down the hill as the Vols stunned the Jayhawks, not to mention the rest of college basketball.

Saturday, Williams got a second chance. So did his teammates, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins.

This time it was Williams and 21,214 going-bonkers fans at Thompson-Boling Arena. Also present were John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Scotty Hopson, to drop a few names.

The Vols had another golden moment in them, it turns out. This time it was upending No. 2 Kentucky, 74-65.

And there was Williams in the middle of it, drawing a crucial charging foul from Wall with 28 seconds to play.

There was Tatum in the middle of it, rebounding a Kentucky miss and dribbling the length of the court for a layup to cap an amazing 18-0 UT run in the first half.

There was Goins in the middle of it, converting a driving, leaning three-point play against a 6-foot-10 Kentucky defender, then playing to the crowd as if he does it every day.

When the Vols beat Kansas, Williams, Tatum and Goins were suspended. They were in the car with Tyler Smith when a New Year's Day traffic stop turned into arrests on gun and marijuana charges, rocking UT's season.

Smith never made it back. Tatum and Goins sat out four games. Williams was banished for nine.

The three lost sheep have been back in the fold for a few games now and the Vols surely needed them Saturday.

"Melvin, Cameron and Brian, they have been terrific in coming back,'' coach Bruce Pearl said.

"Our fans have been wonderful in taking 'em back. The team has been great and welcomed them back.''

In a way, it's if they were never gone.

"They were part of the Kansas game,'' said senior J.P. Prince. "They just weren't on the court with us.

"But they were never without us. Tyler's not here, but this game was for him - 'This is something we wanted to do for you, to beat Kentucky.' ''

While the thought is appreciated, actually being in the arena, being on the court makes all the difference.

"There's no feeling like playing in front of our fans,'' Williams said. "They camped out last night. We would have never won the game without 22,000 people here for us.''

They don't win the game without three specific people there for them: Williams, Tatum and Goins.

Williams battled in the paint with Cousins, Kentucky's supersized, supertalented freshman.

"We talked the whole game,'' Williams said. "I was telling him how he wasn't going to get nothing easy.''

With the Vols clinging to a 67-65 edge in the final minute, it was Williams who set the screen to free Hopson for the 3-point shot that blew the roof off the place.

Moments later, Williams planted himself in front of Wall, Kentucky's Jordanesque freshman guard, to draw the charge.

"The biggest play of the game,'' said UT senior Bobby Maze. "If they get another dunk, no telling what happens.''

Williams saw Wall coming and decided to go for it:

"I was kind of shaky, but I was going to try to stop the play because he was about to do something. He'd been making unbelievable stuff that I ain't ever never seen in person in my whole life.

"I just figured get in front of him and make it look good.''

It looked good and it felt good.

A lot better than being alone in a dorm room.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 8653-342-6276.

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Comments » 6

Oklahoma_Vol_Fan writes:

See y'all in Nashville!

alvol3460 writes:

Thank you Brian, and Scotty, and Chiz, and Maze, and Hopson, and PRINCE!, and S Pearl for stepping up and making this happen. Great teamwork... I'd rather have you guys anyday than a bunch of one-an-done lottery picks. There ain't nobody out there better than you, as long as you stay humble. We have what it takes to win a nat'l championship, if you want it bad enough. Love the chemistry between the team and the coach...deap tourney runs are made of this.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to alvol3460:

Thank you Brian, and Scotty, and Chiz, and Maze, and Hopson, and PRINCE!, and S Pearl for stepping up and making this happen. Great teamwork... I'd rather have you guys anyday than a bunch of one-an-done lottery picks. There ain't nobody out there better than you, as long as you stay humble. We have what it takes to win a nat'l championship, if you want it bad enough. Love the chemistry between the team and the coach...deap tourney runs are made of this.

Agree completely! A national championship seems extremely unlikely, but stranger things have happened, I suppose. All Vol fans have to be feeling really good about the team right now. It is still hard for them to maintain their intensity and focus for a whole game, let alone a string of them, but they have shown that they can play with anybody when they all decide to bring it.

cdonsbach writes:

Big Baby played the most aggressively I've ever seen him play yesterday.

govols9875 writes:

im so glad we beat the calliperi cheaters

makelemonade writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Agree completely! A national championship seems extremely unlikely, but stranger things have happened, I suppose. All Vol fans have to be feeling really good about the team right now. It is still hard for them to maintain their intensity and focus for a whole game, let alone a string of them, but they have shown that they can play with anybody when they all decide to bring it.

Well, we've proved we can beat anyone on any given night. If we can just play that way every game, anything's possible.

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