Shortly after 4 o'clock Saturday, evidence was converging to confirm what many have suspected: That Tennessee's athletic program has fallen under a curse.
At Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols were trying to lock down a win over Alabama.
The more intense segment of UT's fan base was simultaneously monitoring a press conference at a Virginia high school. Superstud running back Derrick Green would pick between UT and Michigan.
With 15.4 seconds to play, Trae Golden had a chance to solidify Tennessee's tenuous 54-53 lead over Bama. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one.
In the scramble for the rebound, Golden crashed into the courtside high-roller seats and nearly took out, of all people, Jim Haslam, the university's leading benefactor.
Possession to Alabama. Timeout on the court.
During the timeout, unbeknownst to the majority of the crowd that was on its feet to sweat out the final possession, Green announced for Michigan.
Surely, a game-winning Alabama shot would follow.
But it did not. Bad news didn't come in threes or even twos.
The Vols got their win, 54-53, unleashing a celebration for both team and crowd.
Haslam, by the way, appeared to walk away unscathed. It's up to Butch Jones to find another running back.
Coach Cuonzo Martin told his team during that tense timeout:
"We've been here before. At some point we've got to pull one out.''
Boy, have the Vols ever been here before. Crunch-time failures have derailed the first half of UT's season. Two Saturdays ago in Tuscaloosa this same Alabama team escaped 68-65 when Golden's 3-point shot rimmed off.
"We haven't gotten a lot of breaks in the past couple of games,'' said Golden. "Just being able to get this 'W' we can just move forward.''
Tennessee got the break this time.
The break was a no-call by the officials when Alabama's Trevor Lacey went to the corner to launch a shot that could win the game at the buzzer.
Alabama vs Tennessee, Jan. 26, 2013
UT's Jarnell Stokes went with him, bodied up and Lacey never got the shot off. There was contact, but not enough, apparently, for any of the three officials to blow a whistle and send Lacey to the free-throw stripe.
"I wasn't listening for a whistle,'' said Golden. "I was listening for the buzzer.''
When it came it was music to Tennessee's ears.
"Tonight,'' said Martin, "it bounced our way.''
It bounced UT's way a couple of times, in fact.
With 2:27 left, UT, leading 48-47, a Stokes toss bounced high off the rim and — as the shot-clock sounded — fell back through for a 50-47 lead.
Which Lacey promptly erased with a 3-pointer. So Jordan McRae drove through traffic and got a shot to rattle in for a 52-50 lead. That, after Stokes had extended the possession by ripping an offensive rebound away from the Tide, one of his 18 boards.
"All credit goes to Tennessee,'' said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "They made plays they had to make.''
Haven't heard the opposing coach say that about the Vols for a while. But Grant was right. Tennessee made the plays.
"All the games we've been losing in the SEC have been really close games,'' McRae said. "And those are the games that hurt you the most, when you know it's on yourself.''
They won this close game. That's on them too. It should feel good.