NASHVILLE − Julian Phillips ran free down the court at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday.
The Tennessee basketball freshman had the open rim and a potential four-point lead in front of him with less than 15 seconds to play. He veered away instead.
Rick Barnes threw his hands in the air.
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“He’s got to (dunk) that,” Barnes said. “I told him you don’t turn down a 100-percent shot. I mean, you’ve got to do that.”
Phillips snubbed the two-possession lead in favor of running down the clock further. It backfired and No. 5 Tennessee (19-5, 8-3) lost 66-65 to Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6 SEC) on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Tennessee got the ball back ahead 65-63 when Zakai Zeigler grabbed a defensive rebound. Vanderbilt had only committed two team fouls with 22 seconds left, leaving the Commodores to commit foul after foul to extend the game. They committed two prior to Phillips bypassing the dunk.
Phillips broke free and caught an inbound pass from Tyreke Key with 14.4 seconds remaining. He could have dunked with 12 seconds to play to extend the lead to 67-63, seemingly finishing the game for Tennessee. He peeled away from the rim.
“I am not sure what was going through his head there,” Barnes said. “I don’t think he will ever make that mistake again.”
The freshman was fouled for the fifth team foul. They committed two more to send Santiago Vescovi to the free-throw line with 8 seconds left.
Vescovi missed the front end of the one-and-one and it was still a two-point game when Vanderbilt called a timeout with 4.0 seconds to play. Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse set up the final play, which led to Tyrin Lawrence being wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer. He hit it and Tennessee lost 66-65.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.