The play should have been the beginning of the end, the proverbial straw that broke Middle Tennessee State's back Monday night.
Tennessee had a hard-earned 64-56 lead with a little over 7 minutes to play. Thompson-Boling Arena was rocking.
The Vols were 47 minutes from Madison Square Garden and had built the momentum to make it a downhill run.
But basketball is a funny game. And at the same time, a heartbreaking one.
Today, Murfreesboro is celebrating, even more than when the Blue Raiders clinched the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title last month.
Today, James Gallman Sr. is talking trash at the Knoxville steel mill where he works. His son is a Blue Raider hero.
Today, the UT managers are laundering the uniforms for the last time then putting them away for the season.
"They have just finished games unbelievably the last two months," MTSU coach Kermit Davis said of Tennessee.
It was the Blue Raiders who finished this one.
They finished it on a 15-0 run and won 71-64 to advance to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
Middle has beaten Tennessee only twice in hoops. The first was in 1988, also in the NIT, the inaugural meeting between the state's two biggest schools in terms of enrollment.
Then the Vols rolled off nine consecutive wins. Four years ago there was a brutal one, 109-40. Last year on this same floor, the damage was 86-56.
"Last time, it was a bad game," said James Gallman Jr. "Last time we got punted.
"Tonight we had to come out here and match their toughness. That's what we did."
The Blue Raiders' win means a lot to anyone associated with the school. It means something extra to Gallman.
He's a junior from Fulton High School. He did his part to help swell the crowd to 12,038. There were parents, stepparents, aunties, a fiancée, a daughter, a whole bunch of Gallmans.
"I thought James was the MVP of the first half," said Davis.
With a number of his teammates struggling with foul woes, Gallman nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and finished with seven points.
The anticipation had been building in the six days since the Blue Raiders knew they would get a shot at Big Brother. Gallman couldn't have written a better homecoming script.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Middle Tennessee's coming to Knoxville. Aw, that's easy work for Tennessee.
"We're Sun Belt, they're SEC, so they think the Sun Belt's not a big league.
"We proved our point and we proved our point on ESPN."
The MVP of the final seven minutes was Bruce Massey.
"Everybody was tired," said Davis. "Bruce Massey was the freshest guy on the floor. He made all the plays."
Massey sensed the Vols were wearing out, especially his defender, Trae Golden.
"My teammates and Coach Davis came to me," Massey said, "and told me, 'Golden is getting tired. When you get the ball, look to attack.' "
He did. Massey averages 5.6 points a game. He scored eight in MTSU's rally and finished with 20 points to go with his 10 rebounds.
It was, in fact, Tennessee that looked tired and tentative at the end. The Sun Belt guys summoned the energy and are moving on.
"I told our guys," said Davis, "in April we'll go over to my house and celebrate this win.
"But the main thing right now is we get to go on to the next game."
That will be Wednesday night at home against Minnesota for the right to go to New York.
And Davis has been around long enough to know this celebration can't be postponed until April.
"There's a lot of people who have pulled for Middle and for Tennessee on certain occasions in different sports," Davis said.
"When we get back to Murfreesboro, our players will find out exactly that it meant."
Tennessee, meanwhile, has all summer to ponder the one that got away — and to whom it got away.
"They just wanted it more," said a bleary-eyed McRae. "I know we're the better team. We just weren't tonight."