For those who grew up watching basketball during the 1980s, the name Andrew Toney should be a familiar one. Toney was a good player during his eight-year professional career, averaging nearly 16 points per game and winning an NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. But something funny seemed to happen when Toney played against the Boston Celtics, with his exploits in those games earning him the nickname “The Boston Strangler.”
This is by no means an attempt to place Texas A&M forward Antwan Space on Toney’s level, as Toney’s achievements against the Celtics weren’t limited to two games. But if Tennessee fails to reach the NCAA tournament, Space could require a nickname similar to Toney’s.
Space’s three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Aggies a 68-65 win over the Volunteers in College Station, the second time this season he’s beaten Tennessee with a shot from beyond the arc. In the first meeting between the teams, Space hit a three-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 57-56 win in Knoxville on January 11. Whatever it is, there’s something about Tennessee that brings out Space’s inner “marksman.”
Following Saturday’s win Space is 9-for-34 from beyond the arc this season. Against Tennessee: 4-for-7, with the Florida State transfer making two of his five attempts on Saturday afternoon. Just as big of an issue for Tennessee was the play of their bench, with three players combining to shoot 0-for-8 from the field and get outscored by Texas A&M’s reserves 21-2.
Yet they still had a chance to escape College Station with a win, beginning with two chances at the end of regulation. The first was lost when Cuonzo Martin decided to end a possession that seemed to be going nowhere by calling a timeout with 2.4 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Volunteers that decision came just before Antonio Barton hit a three-pointer that would have given them the lead. On the ensuing inbounds pass Jarnell Stokes scored at the rim and was fouled, but he missed the free throw that would’ve given Tennessee the lead with four tenths of a second remaining.
That seems to be Tennessee’s luck this season, and with four games remaining before the SEC tournament in Atlanta they have to find a way to turn that luck around in their favor. The problem for the Vols is that three of those four games will do nothing for their profile, with the exception being the regular season finale at Missouri.
As a result Tennessee will likely enter the SEC tournament, even with that impressive win over Virginia on their resume, in need of wins if they’re to reach the NCAA tournament. For their sake, hopefully they don’t run into the Aggies (and Antwan Space) in Atlanta.
Vine credit: gifdsports