Now coming off the bench, Brian Williams hit the biggest shot of his life in improbable fashion, somehow managing to put back a buzzer-beater as he was falling down to give Tennessee a 59-57 victory at Georgia on Tuesday night.
"Like Kobe," Williams said, beaming. "The one-footed fade-away."
He wasn't nearly as graceful as Kobe Bryant, winding up on his backside as the shot went in. Then he took off for the locker room, dragging along several teammates.
"I just wanted to go to the locker room so the fans wouldn't kill me," Williams quipped.
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Playing without suspended coach Bruce Pearl, the Volunteers (12-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) pulled out the wild win after Tobias Harris badly missed a three-pointer from the corner. Georgia (13-4, 2-2) lost at home for the first time this season, stumbling after a 22-point win at Mississippi last weekend.
Harris and Scotty Hopson led Tennessee with 15 points apiece, and Williams added 10.
The win was especially sweet for the senior center, who was serving a nine-game suspension last season for a New Year's Day arrest when the Vols took a 15-point loss in Athens.
"They destroyed us in every aspect in that game," Williams recalled, wincing at the memory. This season, he started 14 of the first 15 games, then was replaced in the lineup by another senior, John Fields.
No. 23 Illinois 71, No. 17 Michigan State 62: Brandon Paul scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half to lead the host Illini. But they had to hold off a late Spartans charge and won with seven free throws from four players that built a two-point lead back up to 65-57 with 5:25 left.
North Carolina 75, Clemson 65: Harrison Barnes hit the go-ahead three-pointer with about five minutes left to help the Tar Heels stay perfect all-time against the Tigers at home. Barnes finished with 13 points and six rebounds for UNC (13-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which improved to 55-0 all-time against the Tigers in Chapel Hill — an NCAA record for most consecutive home wins against a single opponent.
Around the league
Memphis: Coach Josh Pastner said Wesley Witherspoon will sit out against Southern Mississippi Wednesday night before reinstating the junior forward from suspension. The Commercial Appeal reported that Pastner suspended the pre-season All-Conference USA pick last week for mocking an assistant coach on the team bus after the Tigers' 64-58 loss at SMU.
BYU: Forward Chris Collinsworth will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Friday to repair cartilage damage in his right knee, Coach Dave Rose announced Tuesday. Collinsworth started the first four games of the season for the Cougars.
Indiana: Sophomore guard Maurice Creek will have surgery Thursday on his injured right knee, Coach Tom Crean said Tuesday that Creek is out indefinitely.
Bailey headed to SE La.
Former Mississippi State basketball player Elgin Bailey has transferred to Southeastern Louisiana. Bailey, a 6-foot-8, 265-pound junior, was suspended after a Dec. 23 fight with teammate Renardo Sidney in the stands of the Diamondhead Classic in Honolulu. Both players were reinstated on Jan. 3, but Mississippi State said Bailey "asked to be released." Sidney, 6-foot-10, 275-pound sophomore, has returned to the Bulldogs and started the past three games.
Bailey will have to sit out a full year per NCAA transfer rules before playing for the Southland Conference school, which means he won't be eligible until after the first semester next season.
Bahamas exempt for tourney
The NCAA has given the Bahamas exempt status, clearing the way for the island nation to host a new holiday tournament that organizers hope will become the East Coast version of the Maui Invitational.
The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors approved the Bahamas' proposal without discussion over the weekend, and the legislation goes into effect on Aug. 1. Organizers already have preliminary plans in place to hold an eight-team tournament of Division I schools over Thanksgiving weekend.
Under NCAA rules, a country must have exempt status to host a tournament or the teams playing there will be limited to 27 regular-season games instead of 30.
Tournament organizers have started sending out contracts to five schools that had already given oral commitments to playing in next season's inaugural event, which will be called the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Eastern Kentucky 70, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 50: Justin Stommes scored 17 points, and the Colonels won easily on the road. Joshua Jones scored 14 points, Spencer Perrin scored 12, and Jaron Jones had 10 for EKU (10-9). The Colonels led 30-26 at the half, then shot 60 percent in the second half to pull away.
Asbury 88, Berea 60: Former Pleasure Ridge Park standout Phillip Morrison scored 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting to lead the visiting Eagles. Morrison was named the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week Monday after averaging 23.3 points in three games the previous week.
Berea 70, Asbury 63: Paris graduate Emily Hinkson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Webster County's Stephanie Householder added 18 points to lead the host Mountaineers.
No. 11 Notre Dame 80, No. 16 Georgetown 58: Skylar Diggins scored 17 of her 22 points in the first half, and former Lexington Catholic star Natalie Novosel added 19 points as the Irish won at home.