KNOXVILLE — Kyle Alexander swatted the ball away before Texas A&M forward Tyler Davis even released the shot.
Then, as the basketball floated in the air with just under a minute to play, Alexander grabbed the rebound and held onto it while receiving a hard foul from two Aggies that sent his 6-foot-11 body crashing to the floor.
Alexander went to the free-throw line a few moments later and set a career high in points by making both attempts and sealing Tennessee's 75-62 Southeastern Conference victory over the visiting Aggies on Saturday night.
Before he went to the line, the soft-spoken Canadian who holds the distinction of being a VolScholar for his standout grade point average popped up with a glare in his eye for Davis and D.J. Hogg, the two players responsible for his tumble.
"Oh, yeah," Alexander said with a nervous chuckle after the game as he recalled the moment. "Just a lot of adrenaline, I guess."
Tennessee's Jordan Bone and Grant Williams had grabbed Alexander, redirected him from a potential exchange with the Texas A&M players and pointed him toward the free-throw line on the other end of the court as a crowd of 19,612 roared its approval for the big man's effort.
Alexander already had inflicted plenty of pain on the Aggies with his play.
Earlier in the week, No. 24 Tennessee (12-4, 3-2) rode career-high performances from Williams and Admiral Schofield to a 92-84 victory at Vanderbilt.
Beating Texas A&M (11-6, 0-5) for a third straight victory required new stars. Alexander, Jordan Bowden and Tennessee's defense answered the call on a night when Williams and Schofield made a combined seven of 25 shots against a physical OVERSET FOLLOWS:Aggies squad that was ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll just two weeks ago.
Alexander's career-best 14 points came with just six shots from the field. He made five of them and hit all six of his free throws. His points included a pump-fake and score on Davis with 2:09 left that put the Vols up 69-60 and swung the momentum back in Tennessee's favor after A&M had quickly sliced a 14-point deficit in half.
"From start to finish, Kyle was terrific," Vols coach Rick Barnes said. "We're not asking him to do a lot of great things. But what we need him to do, we need him to be doing it every single night. That's defense and rebounding. And he can score the ball. You saw that tonight."
The Aggies started two players who are 6-10 and another who is 6-9. After starting 0-4 in conference play, Texas A&M had its full complement of rotation players available for the first time all season following a wave of injuries and suspensions.
Early on, the teams traded blows in a back-and-forth game. The Vols closed the first half strong.
Bowden completed a three-point play when he was fouled while making a runner with 46 seconds left in the half. Tennessee then jumped into a zone defense for a single possession and got a stop. On the other end, Jordan Bone drained a pull-up jumper, giving the Vols a 36-28 lead just before the final seconds of the half ran out.
Bowden extended UT's lead to new plateaus twice in the middle of the second half by knocking down treys. He hit a 3-pointer with 13:33 remaining for a 48-38 lead and then hit made another with 11:12 remaining to give the Vols a 53-40 edge out of a timeout.
After scoring a total of 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting in Tennessee's first three league games, Bowden shot the ball well for the second game in a row. The 6-5 sophomore followed his 12 points in Wednesday's win over Vanderbilt by scoring a team-high 15 against Texas A&M on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor.
The Aggies closed within 65-59 with 3:49 to play before Alexander shut down any further comeback efforts. He finished the night with six rebounds, three blocks, an assist and a steal, in addition to his career high in points.
"I came out tonight and said I was going to play hard, and if I play hard for two minutes and need a sub, then I'm going to do that," Alexander said. "But I just wanted to help the team win tonight."
Mission accomplished. That Alexander's career night came in front of family members from Canada making a rare trip to see him play in person made things even sweeter.
Even for Schofield, who is Alexander's roommate, the performance was a treat. So was the way the polite communications major popped up off the floor after securing a crucial rebound in the game's last minute.
"He don't say nothing, so please talk," Schofield said while letting out a laugh. "Please talk. I'm begging you, please. We've got his back. It's just awesome to see him show some emotion out there.
"It just shows how locked in he was tonight."
Contact David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated at 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.