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Alabama players huddle during an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won 63-57.

If throwing away almost all of a 15-point lead with nearly 14 minutes to go wasn't bad enough, Tennessee then decided to blow an eight-point advantage in the final four minutes.

The Volunteers have had some rough losses in their first season under Rick Barnes, but Tuesday night's collapse at Alabama may be the worst.

The Crimson Tide, losers of five of six games to open conference play, outscored Tennessee 16-2 in the final 4:16 to win 63-57 and hand the Vols another disheartening defeat at Coleman Coliseum.

"We weren't tough enough coming down the stretch," Barnes told the Vol Network radio broadcast after the game.

"We talked about competing. We talked about a lot before the game about competing, playing defense and rebounding. You get a lead like that, and we just absolutely collapsed on defense and didn't rebound the ball.

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Alabama forward Shannon Hale (11) gets inside between Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs III (3) and forward Armani Moore (4) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won 63-57.
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"As bad as we were on offense -- trying to throw ridiculous passes to areas that even if we would have caught it, we can't do anything with it -- our defense was bad.

"We just didn't have enough competitive fight and fire coming down in the end to win the game."

Tennessee (10-10, 3-5 SEC) dropped a second conference game it's led for more than 30 minutes, the other coming at home against league-leading Texas A&M earlier this month.

After allowing a 12-point lead to dissolve in the first half, the Vols jumped out to a 48-33 lead six minutes into the second half with a 21-5 run powered by freshman Admiral Schofield and Kevin Punter Jr., who spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.

Then came the nightmarish drought that allowed Alabama (11-8, 2-5) to claw back into the game.

Shannon Hale scored 10 points in Alabama's 14-0 run as Tennessee went eight minutes and 28 seconds without scoring and missed 15 straight shots.

"You're going to miss shots," Armani Moore told the Vol Network, "but I think our shot selection tonight on some of our shots that we were taking when we had the lead just wasn't good. We can't get reluctant. But we've got to take good shots."

The Crimson Tide couldn't grab the lead, though, and the Vols regained their footing and pushed its lead back to 55-47 on Punter's jumper.

Then came the fatal collapse.

Arthur Edwards hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with less than 40 seconds to go -- Alabama was 1-of-9 on 3s in the second half prior to that shot -- and Retin Obasohan turned a long rebound of Punter's missed 3 into a three-point play at the other end to seal Tennessee's demise.

"We're talking about it and trying to get them to understand that this time of year the mental is far more important than the physical, and part of that is being tough enough to close out games," assistant coach Chris Ogden told the Vol Network.

"We've had a lot of games where we've had leads, and the last four minutes the heat gets turned up and we haven't finished. We're not going to get on a run here and string together wins unless we can close out some of these games."

Obasohan, the guard from Belgium, led the Tide with 22 points, and Hale, a Johnson City native, had 20 points and eight rebounds.

Alabama threw constant double teams at Punter, the SEC's No. 2 scorer, and forced his supporting cast to make plays. Punter scored 15 points, but he was just 5-of-14 from the field. Robert Hubbs III (13 points) and Schofield (10) each reached double figures.

Tennessee missed its final 12 3-point attempts and hit 8-of-33 beyond the arc for the game as Alabama outscored the Vols 34-18 in the paint.

"They went zone, but still, we've got to do a better job of getting there and being more aggressive," Ogden said. "I know we got rolling there from the 3-point line for a little bit, and when you do that sometimes you can fall in love with it too much. This one hurts."

The Vols also had 17 turnovers, which Alabama turned into 22 points.

"It's very disappointing," Barnes said. "You've got to play to win, and I thought our body language changed when they started making a run back. We talked about it: Bad defense leads to bad offense, and bad offense leads to bad defense.

"From a mental standpoint we just didn't do the things that we needed to do."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

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