Double Trouble reincarnated

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

Double Trouble is back again.


Long, long ago, Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King were called “Double Trouble” on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Ernie and Bernie Show was the best in Tennessee basketball history.

The now Volunteers are refining a new act, Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. It does not sound the same, no rhyme, and is not yet as colorful but it has been where the first couldn’t go.

Schofield and Williams and assorted associates shot down the No. 1 team in America on Sunday, sinking undefeated Gonzaga, 76-73, at the Jerry Colangelo Classic at Talking Stick Resort near Phoenix. ESPN said millions no doubt appreciated a genuine top-10 clash.

Grant was a gladiator – 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, five fouls.

Admiral took over the game. He scored 25 in the second half. He hit a pair of clutch three-pointers from NBA distance. The Zags couldn’t match the closing bomb with 24 seconds remaining.

Part of Coach Rick Barnes’ life flashed before his eyes as that final Schofield shot was in flight.

“When he shot, I just thought about how many hours he has spent in the gym, and I have sat at that desk in there for four years watching him work at it.

“That being said, he is going to make shots and he’s not afraid of that moment.”

This was historic stuff. Tennessee started playing this great sport just a little while after James A. Naismith put up the original peach baskets. For the most part, accomplishments have been modest.

Only four times in all those years have Volunteers upset top-ranked foes.

Coach Ray Mears got two.

His 1966 team ambushed Kentucky’s 23-0 Rupp’s Runts when they thought they were invincible. Ron Widby scored 22 and Austin “Red” Robbins got 18. Howard Bayne claimed a dozen rebounds. It was his finest hour.

Mears’ 1969 team opened the season as 24-point underdogs at No. 1 South Carolina. A matchup zone became coaching genius. The Gamecocks never decided how to attack it.

Jimmy England scored 20 and Don Johnson 18 in a 55-54 triumph. Mears received a classic trophy, a stuffed fighting rooster purchased for a small fortune by Vol fan Ken Rice from a Columbia, S.C., gift shop and presented to the coach. A good time was had by all.

Coach Bruce Pearl got two.

Amid much hoopla, Tennessee won in Memphis, 66-62, on Feb. 23, 2008. J.P. Prince, a notoriously poor foul shooter, plunked in a pair with 8.8 seconds remaining and the world going crazy around him. Tyler Smith had three clutch baskets.

Memphis coach John Calipari wasn’t sure about Prince’s name but he said Smith’s will to win was unbelievable.

The victory was meaningful. Tennessee emerged as the new No. 1 and lasted for a few minutes. The Vols lost the next game at Vanderbilt.

In the midst of 2010 chaos (Smith dismissed from the team and three other players suspended), the Volunteers stunned No. 1 Kansas at Thompson-Boling Arena. Scotty Hopson scored 17, but it was a lean-around three-point goal by walk-on Skyler McBee with 1:14 remaining that proved decisive.

No kidding – McBee leaned around a Jayhawk defender and let it fly.

That Pearl team made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.

This Barnes team might have more potential. Williams is a crafty technician who looks like an overgrown NFL linebacker. Schofield is fearless. The supporting cast has talent.

The Vols appear strong, physically and mentally. They have demonstrated that they can win in the combat zone and, in this case, they certainly did not wilt under pressure. They did not shoot well as a team (Jordan Bone was two of 13), but Schofield was brilliant.

Parting shot: Heavy rests the crown on the king‘s head. Tennessee plays at Memphis on Saturday.

Marvin West invites reader reactions via email.

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