Looking up while praying to above, Skylar McBee watched as another potential heartbreak hung like the collective breath held in Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt's Kevin Bright, the man McBee was supposed to be blocking out, pushed the ball back toward the hoop. A final second stood on the clock.
McBee has seen how this movie ends before. The Vols entered the rivalry meeting against Vandy with a 2-5 record in games decided by eight points or less.
"I was on the floor thinking, if we lose this game, I don't know what I'll do tonight," McBee said later.
"They might have to commit me."
McBee will be in class today. The asylum can wait.
After squandering every inch of an early 19-5 lead, Tennessee escaped the Commodores for a 58-57 win. Bright's put-back on a last-ditch layup by Vanderbilt's Kedren Johnson came up short and a second missed tip came late.
"Thank goodness," McBee said with the smile of a thief.
Indeed, UT stole a victory that very nearly sucked the life out of the 16,391 on hand.
The Vols got the stops needed, though, to end a game they opened with a 12-0 lead.
"In order to get to something, you have to go through something," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I think for our guys, going through tough losses, it's a tough group, it's a resilient group. Those losses can really take a toll."
Winning a game Martin described as "a boxing match," the Vols improved to 11-8 , 3-4 in the SEC. Tuesday night and Saturday's win over Alabama marked the team's first back-to-back victories since late December
"We're rolling now," said UT sophomore Josh Richardson, who scored six points to go with 10 rebounds. "The ball is rolling. I feel we have the potential to be like last year, get on a roll and finish high in the conference."
Another monster stat line from Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes — 19 points, 11 rebounds, including seven offensive — was nearly for naught. He scored or assisted on the team's first six field goals.
Vanderbilt vs Tennessee, Jan. 30, 2013
Thanks to that effort, UT opened the night scoring 19 points over the first 9 minutes, 28 seconds. Then the flood ended.
It took another 18 minutes for the Vols to score their next 19.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt (8-11, 2-5) went scoreless for the first 6:47 of the game. The 'Dores, who average just 59.8 points per game, couldn't muster clean shot attempts, let alone points.
Finally, relief came in the form of unheralded 6-foot-11 sophomore Josh Henderson. Giving it back to Stokes, Henderson tied his career high of 13 points. He helped power a lengthy stretch that saw Vandy outscore UT, 48-33, to tie the game at 52 with 5:59 remaining.
The Vols countered with their own unexpected scorer. McBee made three 3-pointers, his most since making four against Presbyterian on Dec. 18, to finish with 10 points. He had made two 3s total in the last four games.
"I just wasn't thinking about it tonight," McBee said. "It was good to see a few go in."
Johnson aided Vandy with 14 points, all coming in the second half.
Tennessee lost junior point guard Trae Golden to a right hamstring injury at the end of a first half it led 27-23.
At halftime, Martin told walk-on point guard Brandon Lopez to, "Be ready."
He was, despite not playing in the last five games. Acting as, what Richardson called, "a little spark plug running around the court," Lopez steadied the UT offense. He went scoreless in 10 minutes, but contributed three deft assists and didn't commit a turnover.
"Brandon just knows what's going on out there," Martin said.
"He changed the complexion of the game being out there," Richardson added.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn