McBee, a former Tennessee men's basketball walk-on turned scholarship player, delivered a career-high 18 points to lift the Vols to a 69-57 victory over South Carolina Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
McBee scored 11 points in the final three minutes of the first half to fuel a 14-4 run and sealed the win by making all four of his free-throw attempts in the final minute.
"I was just worried about getting the win,'' McBee said. "I was just happy for us to get back to .500.''
Tennessee (12-12, 4-5 SEC) returns to action at 4 p.m. on Saturday (TV: WVLT) at No. 8 Florida (19-5, 7-2).
UT coach Cuonzo Martin has been pleased with McBee's first two starts.
"Skylar has always been a tough kid, and I think that's him taking pride and having an opportunity,'' Martin said after McBee was 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the win over the Gamecocks.
"He's solid in everything he does, and he's a guy you need on the floor,'' Martin said. "You play the guys you feel comfortable with.''
In hindsight, it seems appropriate McBee's career scoring night began with banjo players strumming the national anthem.
The 6-foot-3, 199-pound McBee embraces his rural roots, having grown up on a farm eight miles outside the town of Rutledge picking Grainger County's famous tomatoes when he wasn't playing sports or assigned other chores.
Outside of farming, sports has played a dominant role in his family; father Doug has served as a basketball coach for many years, older sister Megan (Schrock) played basketball at Carson-Newman College, and older brother Chase made the UT football team as a walk-on some seven years before Skylar did the same with the basketball team.
To this point, McBee has best been remembered for his clutch 3-pointer in the final minute of UT's 76-68 home win over No. 1-ranked Kansas on Jan. 10, 2010.
McBee politely accepts praise when "The Shot" comes up, just as he rolls with conversations about his thick drawl and mustache.
But he's most comfortable talking about his team, often deflecting questions intended to draw self-praise toward the contributions of his teammates.
"On the last 3-pointer, Jeronne (Maymon) set a really good flair screen for me,'' McBee said, asked about his three straight 3-pointers.
Did starting and playing a career-high 31 minutes make him more comfortable shooting the ball?
"It's not about starting; it's about playing your hardest when you're on the floor,'' McBee said. "Anytime you're on the floor for a while and you're taking some shots, it helps to get into a rhythm.
"But it's not always going to be like that; sometimes minutes are gonna be spotty, so I have to be able to hit open shots when that time comes, too.''
McBee's shooting ability has been recognized throughout his career; he regularly shoots over 50 percent from 3-point range in practice. He leads the team with a 40.4-percent shooting clip from 3-point range this season and 44 makes. Perhaps more telling, his coaches and teammates want him to shoot even more.
"Every time I pass Skylar the ball, I scream for him to shoot it,'' UT point guard Trae Golden said. "I don't think there's ever a bad shot with Skylar.''
McBee's shot-of-a-lifetime against the Jayhawks came with the shot clock on the verge of expiring, so he was left with no choice but to air it out.
But prior to Wednesday's game, McBee had shown a slight hesitation to put up the shot, at times, even when open.
"It's hard for a shooter to go out there and be hesitant; it changes your shot, you get a hitch in it,'' McBee said. "That's something Coach Martin has talked to me about: When the shot is there, shoot the ball.
"But I think everyone did a good job with it tonight. Jordan (McRae) hit two, Trae hit one, Cam (Tatum) got one to start us off and Josh (Richardson) hit a big one.''
A point guard and quarterback in high school, McBee is adept at throwing praise around as he is passing a basketball or once was spiraling a football.
McBee didn't go totally unnoticed during recruiting. Wake Forest showed early interest, and standing offers remained from mid-major schools as UC-Santa Clara, Marshall, East Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee.
Both Middle Tennessee and Division II Carson-Newman talked to McBee about playing basketball and football. McBee also was his high school team's safety, punter, punt returner and kickoff return man.
Any questions about McBee's courage at the collegiate level were answered in a 60-57 win over defending national champion Connecticut on Jan. 21. McBee drew a foul in the backcourt, stepped to the free-throw line with 19 seconds left and hit two pressure-packed free throws.
"He didn't look like he wanted to pass the ball, which is a good sign,'' Martin said. "You want guys who want to be in that situation.''
McBee attributes his success to his upbringing.
"A lot of it comes from my dad; he coached me for a long time,'' McBee said. "There's a voice in my ear, just telling me to always work hard. When you come from a small place, and you play in a place like this, there's a lot of doubt. There's a voice you have something to prove.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32