KNOXVILLE — Admiral Schofield and the Tennessee men's basketball team had been in Sunday's situation recently: in a tight game against a top-level opponent with star forward Grant Williams on the bench, having succumbed to foul trouble.
This time the Volunteers were prepared. More specifically, Schofield was prepared.
The 6-foot-6 senior poured in a career-high 30 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key with 24 seconds to play in the Vols' 76-73 win over previously top-ranked Gonzaga in the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix. Schofield had 25 points in the second half, including his team's final 11 on a trio of 3-pointers and a layup.
Tennessee moved from No. 7 to No. 3 in Monday's Associated Press poll. Gonzaga fell to No. 4.
Schofield prevented the Vols' offense from appearing stagnant, as it did after Williams fouled out late in the 87-81 overtime loss to now-No. 1 Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off finale in Brooklyn on Nov. 23. Williams went out Saturday with 2:30 to play, trying to prevent a wide-open layup by Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke that would have put the Bulldogs up 72-68. Clarke ended up splitting the free throws at the line, putting his team up three, but Schofield then hit a jumper, followed by the game-winner.
On that play, Schofield set a screen for point guard Jordan Bone. Rui Hachimura — the player guarding Schofield — took a step toward protecting the basket, which freed the Tennessee guard for an open look.
Hachimura missed a potential tying attempt badly, which prompted Schofield to take off for the stands and celebrate with his father Anthony, who had surprised his son by making the trip to Phoenix.
"He is a big part in this," Admiral told reporters postgame. "Him and Coach (Rick) Barnes are the same person. They really coach me the same way. My dad is probably my biggest critic. I wanted to go up to him and say thank you for being here, because I texted him two days ago and asked him if he was coming. He bought a flight and came out. I didn't see him until we were shooting in warmups. He surprised me, so I had to go give him a hug."
Schofield made 10 of his 17 shots and was 6-for-10 from 3-point range, making five of his eight second-half attempts.
Gonzaga called a timeout after his go-ahead 3. With teammates rushing out to celebrate, Schofield was the one calming everyone down.
"Honestly, I just could remember us playing against Kansas and Coach saying we played with too much emotion," he said. "I didn't understand it until I watched the Georgia-and-Alabama football game. Georgia came out with a lot of emotion and couldn't finish. Really, to me, it just looked like they were scoring and everything they had going on offense and defense was all emotion. Them just coming out of the gate fast. Alabama just stayed poised.
"All I could think about was I didn't want this to be a repeat of the Kansas game — being close to a Top Five team and not finishing. The biggest thing is I knew coming in that Coach had never beat a No. 1 team, and I really wanted to do it for him."
If there had been positive emotion in that moment, it would have been warranted. The Vols had fought back from down 64-55 with 6:15 remaining Sunday, led by Schofield and junior guard Jordan Bowden, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half on a trio of 3-pointers while also shutting down Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell.
Norvell couldn't get an open look on the last play, which appeared to have been run for him.
Cooler heads prevailed.
"We've been through it enough with our guys to know the last couple minutes of the game, when you fight back and things swing your way a little bit, that the game is never over," Barnes said. "I think they realize that. You just know that so many things can happen in a college basketball game. It can turn quickly where guys stop concentrating and start celebrating, thinking it's over. It's just never over.
"(Schofield)'s been through enough of them to see it. He can get emotional himself at times, and I did think that he was the latter part of the game. I think our team did. The way we closed the first half and the latter part of the game, we showed some grit and we showed some toughness.
"We were in some foul trouble, as was Gonzaga at the end of the first half. I think both teams were just trying to get through there without any more damage done with fouling. Jordan Bowden was big, but Admiral, you could tell he was locked in there at the end. There was no question he was."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.