Charlotte shocks No. 7 Tennessee late
In one week, No. 7 Tennessee has followed one of the most impressive wins of the college basketball season with two clunkers full of missed shots and late-game breakdowns.
The woes allowed struggling Charlotte to give first-year coach Alan Major his first signature win.
Three days after top scorer Shamari Spears was kicked off the team, Charlotte dressed eight scholarship players and closed on an 8-0 run, with Derrio Green feeding an open Phil Jones for the go-ahead layup with 7.4 seconds left in a stunning 49-48 victory Friday night over the sputtering Volunteers.
''It takes a big-time effort to beat teams like that,'' said Major, a former Ohio State assistant. ''I could not be prouder of this group of guys in that locker room.''
As for that dominant-looking Tennessee team that rolled past then-No. 3 Pittsburgh on the road last weekend? It's disappeared along with its offense in losses this week to Oakland and Charlotte, which matched the fewest points in a victory in school history.
Cameron Tatum only hit glass on a desperation heave at the buzzer for the Volunteers (7-2), who shot 35 percent from the field.
''I thought we didn't play well, but it wasn't about the fact that we weren't excited about playing, ready to play,'' Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. ''We knew we were in a tough environment, that's why you take these games on. I didn't like what I saw out there with our offensive execution and our poise.''
Jamar Briscoe scored 14 points and Green had 13 for the 49ers (5-6) who overcame 30 percent shooting by using a zone defense that stymied the Vols into 2 of 17 shooting from 3-point range.
Tennessee also hit only 2 of 7 free throws, including Melvin Goins' miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up Charlotte's winning basket.
''I don't think I've ever coached in a game where we only made two free throws,'' Pearl said.
Scotty Hopson scored 13 points for Tennessee on 6-of-19 shooting in his second straight poor game after scoring 27 points against Pittsburgh. Tobias Harris added 12 points and 10 rebounds
Starving for something to cheer about amid a difficult season, Charlotte fans spilled out onto the court at the buzzer in a game played off campus at the downtown Time Warner Cable Arena.
''This is a huge win,'' Green said. ''Like Coach said, this team has been through a lot in the first month. For us to just battle back and not give in. We could have folded two weeks ago. But this team just fights every day in practice and every day we play.''
Major on Tuesday dismissed Spears, averaging 17 points, following the third suspension in two seasons for breaking team rules. Thanks to numerous injuries and eligibility issues, Charlotte was dressing only nine players, including two walk-ons, until K.J. Sherrill made his season debut Friday following knee surgery.
After losses to Gardner-Webb, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina, Charlotte wasted no time celebrating its first win over a Top 10 team since beating Syracuse, Cincinnati and Louisville in the 2003-04 season.
''It's so hard to get the general public to understand what these guys go through,'' Major said. ''Sometimes you deal with expectations and you forget kids are kids. For them to understand what it takes to play at a high level and sustain it for 40 minutes, that's been our challenge.''
It was Tennessee making mistakes down the stretch this time.
After Goins missed free throw with 19.5 seconds left, Charlotte didn't have any timeouts. Green raced the ball up the floor and found Jones open on a defensive breakdown. Pearl said Tatum stayed with 3-point shooter Gokhan Sirin instead of rotating on a ball screen.
Then after a timeout with 3 seconds left, Tennessee couldn't get a good look before time expired.
''It was a two-touch play,'' Pearl said. ''Cameron did not need to take that path. He could have gone right into the 3-point line and gotten one from the line.''
Amid a night of missed shots, Green's straightaway 3-pointer with 4:10 left put Charlotte ahead 42-41. But Hopson, who was 3-of-16 from the field, responded with his first 3, a runner in the lane and twisting layup in traffic on the next three possessions.
Hopson pounded his chest on the way down the floor after the last hoop put Tennessee ahead 48-42 with 2:31 to go.
Tennessee wouldn't score again.
''We're not playing well together offensively,'' Pearl said. ''It's frustrating when you shoot so poorly.''