Robert Hubbs hustle play keys Vols' late surge to win against Ole Miss [photos]

Robert Hubbs hustle play keys Vols' late surge to win against Ole Miss [photos]

February 9th, 2017 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee's Grant Williams tries to set up a shot while being guarded by Justas Furmanavicius of Ole Miss on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Photo by Daryl W Sullivan

Gallery: Hubbs hustle play keys Vols' late surge to win against Ole Miss

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KNOXVILLE — Robert Hubbs III wasn't sure where he was throwing the basketball.

The Tennessee senior only knew he couldn't let the missed shot land out of bounds.

The hustle play was one of a couple Hubbs and the Volunteers made down the stretch as they outscored Ole Miss 15-2 in the final three minutes and 50 seconds of an important 75-66 Southeastern Conference win Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I just chased it down," Hubbs said of his effort assist to Grant Williams for the tying basket. "I saw I still could get to it. I just tried to save it under our basket, so hopefully somebody could get it.

"Grant was right there, and he scored the basket."

Hubbs then scored the go-ahead basket on a drive and made two free throws to push Tennessee (14-10, 6-5) toward its fourth straight home win and avenge last month's loss to the Rebels (14-10, 5-6).

"It makes us young guys feel great," Williams joked. "Old men like him and Lew (Evans), it makes us feel good when they make a hustle play and run out of bounds to save the ball. You never get that a lot.

"Seeing him do that and having that play happen, it elevated us."

Hubbs, who is the team's leading scorer this season but is playing through a knee injury, scored just four points in Saturday's 64-59 loss at Mississippi State. Against Ole Miss, he netted 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.

"He's been struggling, and you'd never know it," Vols coach Rick Barnes said. "I told him the difference in him now and a year ago is he would have said it it is what it is, but he's trying so hard to fight through it. He didn't do a lot in practice (Tuesday), a little bit more than he has been doing, but then I get a text early this morning that he feels like he's got the flu.

"I thought he fought through that tonight, not that he does have the flu, but he wasn't feeling well. He's trying. That's all we can ask him to do."

After Sebastian Saiz, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Rebels, made two free throws to make it 68-66 with 1:21 to go, Tennessee's Jordan Bowden drilled a 3 from the wing with the shot clock running down to make it a five-point game.

"After we called a timeout," Barnes said, "we didn't really get what we wanted, and Lamonte (Turner) made a terrific play where he drove and kicked to Bowden. That was a big play in the game."

The Vols also came up with key defensive stops down the stretch to deny Ole Miss, which led for nearly 17 minutes in the second half.

Breein Tyree's driving layup made it 64-60 with 3:56 remaining, but on their final possessions, the Rebels turned the ball over three times, missed a 3-point attempt out of a timeout and had three shots swatted by Williams in the final 90 seconds.

"I think we think it's like pinball," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy quipped. "If you drive it in there real hard and shoot it off the underneath (basket) pad, you get a point, like a bumper. That must have been our strategy. I promise you that was not the game plan, because we had about four or five those at the end."

The Rebels made three more 3s than the Vols, outscored them 32-28 in the paint and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

"It's February," Barnes said. "And every game's going to be a grind. If you expect to be a good team that finishes the season well, you're going to have to be able to find ways when it's not going (well).

"We tell them all the time it's not supposed to be easy. It wouldn't be any fun if it was real easy. Sometimes you wish it was easy, but it's not. You're going to have to win some tough games."

The Vols missed 10 free throws in the second half, but they still made 25 for the game. The Rebels only took 16.

"Tennessee just made all the effort-winning plays," Kennedy said, "that you need to make down the stretch."

Through an ailing knee and his illness, Hubbs made one of them.

"It's going to take a lot for me not to play a game," he said. "I can be feeling terrible. I'm still going to go out there and try to give what I have left in me."

With what the Vols have at stake this month, they'll need whatever their veteran leader has still in the tank.

"I know my team," Hubbs said. "I know we can overcome anything. We've just got to put our minds to it, go out there and do what we do and execute the game plan the coaching staff provides for us."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.


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