CHARLESTON, S.C. - College of Charleston senior Antwaine Wiggins grew up in Tennessee and always hoped he could play for the Vols.
"You weren't good enough," Wiggins' coach, Bobby Cremins, joked Wednesday night.
Wiggins was better than good enough for Tennessee in this one, the fifth-year senior matching his career high of 24 points in the Cougars' 71-65 victory over Tennessee.
Wiggins is from Greeneville, Tenn., about an hour east of Tennessee's Knoxville campus. But the 6-foot-7 forward was too skinny and undeveloped to get a serious look from the Southeastern Conference program. Instead, he found a home with Cremins in helping to rebuild Charleston's basketball reputation.
Wiggins and Cougars (8-1) took another step in that direction with this victory, their second in as many years against the Vols (3-6), who have lost four straight and six of their past seven games.
"This meant a lot," Wiggins said.
Wiggins showed that in the second half, taking over as Charleston rallied from 13 points down in the first period with a 13-0 run to move in front for good. He finished 10 of 12 from the field and tied the career high in points he set against Samford last February.
Andrew Lawrence added 14 points for the Cougars.
Jordan McRae led Tennessee with 19 points. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:00 left that cut the Charleston lead to 68-65, but the Vols couldn't get any closer.
Wiggins scored the first two baskets of the second half as the Cougars tightened up their defense and cut Tennessee's lead to two. Charleston was still trailing 47-43 after Jerome Maymon's inside bucket when the Cougars began their run.
Lawrence started it with a jumper and Wiggins followed with a steal and layin to tie the game. Wiggins made two more baskets and Matt Sundberg a 3-pointer. By the time Lawrence hit a pair of foul shots with 9:28 left, Charleston was out front for good, 56-47.
Cremins was just as happy with sold-out TD Arena as he was with his team's play. "What a great atmosphere," he gushed, "what a great win."
Then again, wins like this are becoming a habit. Two seasons ago, the Cougars took down North Carolina here before defeating the NCAA Tournament-bound Vols, 91-78, in Knoxville last year.
On Nov. 19, Charleston won at Clemson, 72-69, and the Southern Conference member is vying for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1999.
"We know we can play with anybody," Wiggins said.
It was Tennessee who came out on fire, Skylar McBee hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to kick off a 19-5 run in the middle of the opening period to build a 28-15 lead.
The Cougars got going in the final five minutes, though, with Lawrence scoring eight points down the stretch as Charleston got Tennessee's edge down to 37-33 at the break.
Still, the Cougars had few answers for Tennessee's quickness and power underneath and forwards Miller and Maymon took full advantage. Maymon had a power jam and another basket in the Vols' first-half run, as well as four rebounds.
Miller, the 6-foot-8 junior, surpassed his career best of eight points by going 6 of 8 in the opening period. He also added six rebounds, four on the offensive glass, and two blocks to keep Charleston off balance.
It was Miller's straightaway 3-pointer with 31.5 seconds left - his first of the season - that regained control for the Vols after Charleston had made two straight 3s.
That changed dramatically in the second half. The Vols made only three baskets the first 15 minutes during the Charleston run that gave the Cougars control. Miller, who gave Charleston so much trouble the first 20 minutes, was held scoreless the rest of the way.
First-year coach Cuonzo Martin said his players didn't react the way they should when Charleston switched to a zone defense to slow down the Vol's dominance in the middle. He was pleased with his players' energy and how they fought back to make it close.
"We didn't expect to be here," Miller said of his team's struggles. "But it's a speed bump in the road. We can't make it a mountain. We've got to keep it a speed bump."