COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Four overtimes left plenty of fine print.
That’s where the real story of Saturday’s marathon Tennessee-Texas A&M exists.
Scouring that fine print — the minutia of the Vols’ 93-85 win at Reed Arena — five easily unnoticed moments provided a happy Tennessee ending to a three-hour marathon.
Regulation: Most will focus on Jarnell Stokes missing a potential game-winning free throw with 5.9 seconds remaining, but let’s remember how he got there.
Trailing 62-61 in a desperate final possession, UT guard Jordan McRae hurled a 3-pointer toward the rim. As the shot arced, Texas A&M’s Elston Turner slid his 6-foot-5, 209-pound frame in front of the 6-foot-8, 270-pound Stokes.
Turner was perfectly positioned as McRae’s shot caught front iron. No matter. Stokes simply reached above Turner, ripped the ball away and drew a foul.
From there, Stokes made the game-tying free-throw before missing his second attempt.
“I felt like the second was good, but it went short,” Stokes said. “I think I should have made it. It’s as simple as that.”
If not for that offensive rebound, though, none of the following would have occurred.
First overtime: McRae’s pull-up, game-tying 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining landed on the highlight reel, but it wouldn’t have been made possible without Trae Golden.
Staring at a 68-64 deficit with 25 seconds remaining, the Vols’ junior point guard snatched an inbounds pass, drove the length of the floor, split the A&M defense and converted an uncontested layup.
“That possession was critical,” Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. “They scored a layup in six seconds.”
Second overtime: For the second straight game, Turner broke the Reed Arena scoring record. He finished with 38 points after scoring 37 in A&M’s 69-67 win over Ole Miss on Feb. 13.
But when it came to stopping Turner at the most crucial moments, the Vols answered.
At the end of the first overtime, UT’s Josh Richardson swatted a layup by Fabyon Harris out of bounds with three ticks left. Then he blanketed a missed jump shot by Turner at the end of the overtime.
Richardson produced nearly an identical ending to the second OT. Tied 75-75, the 6-foot-5 guard bodied a drive by Turner, stayed in position and blocked a would-be game-winning jumper.
The play exemplified what UT coach Cuonzo Martin called, “a tremendous job on the defensive side of the ball,” in all four overtimes. A&M was 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) after regulation.
Third overtime: Joining starter Alex Caruso, Ray Turner and Andrew Young became the second and third Aggies to foul out of the game during the third overtime.
“We had a lot of players foul out,” Turner lamented. “Players that sat on the bench had to get warm in crucial moments.”
The Vols were called for only two less fouls (28-26) than A&M, but none drew a disqualification. Golden, McRae and Richardson all played the final two overtimes with four fouls apiece.
Fourth overtime: Many of the fouls called on Golden, McRae and Richardson came on charges. On drives to the rim, A&M defenders continually shifted underneath UT’s guards and drew fouls.
As the overtimes progressed, Martin called an audible. Pull-up jumpers and floaters, he said, would undo the Aggies.
“Jarnell was setting the screen and his man wasn’t leaving him, so there was the opportunity to shoot the pull-up or the corner shot would be open for whoever was in the corner,” Martin said later.
“You saw the results.”
The game’s two deciding shots — a pair of short jumpers by Golden with 2:42 left and 2:04 left —widened an 81-80 Tennessee advantage into an 85-80 lead.
McBee capped the run with a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Vols up eight with 1:13 remaining.
“They made a couple big shots when they needed to,” Kennedy said.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.