As the game turned: With Ole Miss sharpshooter Marshall Henderson locked in and a once-19-point Tennessee lead down to seven with 13 minutes to go, UT guard Josh Richardson came up big for the Vols.
Tennessee's defensive stopper pick-pocketed Henderson, took it coast-to-coast for a contested layup and forced an air ball from the Rebels star the next time down.
Hardly a minute later, the Vols were up double digits for good. They cruised late in an 86-70 home win over the reigning SEC Tournament champions on Wednesday.
Lockdown defense from Richardson and sophomore Armani Moore — who combined for six of Tennessee's eight first-half blocks — kept the Ole Miss guards flustered.
But the polarizing Ole Miss star still found a way to can eight of his 19 3-point attempts — many of which were errant, off-balanced and heavily contested.
"(Henderson is) one of the few guys, probably the only guy in this league in my opinion, that you can't fall asleep on down 15, down 20," UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "Because he shoots them deep and at any time."
After Richardson's steal, Henderson only made one of his final four 3-point attempts despite leading the Rebels with 26 points.
Hot topic: Martin's 11th wire-to-wire win as Tennessee's head coach could not have come at a better time.
Fresh off a 26-point loss at Florida over the weekend, the up-and-down Vols were reeling off arguably their worst performance of the season — on national television.
But as the Vols have done after six of their seven losses this year, they bounced back to win the next game.
"It just felt like when we played against Florida, nothing was going for us," freshman guard Darius Thompson said. "Our shots weren't falling. It just wasn't us out there. Tonight, we recovered from it and played a lot better."
Spotlight: Thompson was picked to start over Antonio Barton Wednesday — the first non-injury-related time the freshman got the nod at point guard.
Thompson scored all seven of his points in the first half and added a career-high seven assists. Barton averages 1.9 assists per game and has a season-high of five.
McRae may have a new partner in the backcourt after the freshman's performance, and the Vols' leading scorer wasn't shy on complimenting the youngster.
"Darius is the kind of player who, no matter where he's at or where the ball is at, you have to be expecting the ball at all times," McRae said. "He does a great job of getting everybody involved, and that's what we need from him."
Martin thought the supporting cast Thompson had on Wednesday was a huge difference, as compared to his usual minutes playing with a plethora of bench players.
"I think it was just time," Martin said. "A lot of times when he goes into games, you have young guys; you have inexperienced guys who haven't played a lot. But out of the gates, you have older guys, and his decision-making put those guys in a position to be successful."
The other guys: Henderson led the Rebels and tied McRae for the game-high with 26 points. He shot 8-for-19 from long range, but only made one of his three attempts from inside the arc and had two turnovers.
Outside the box score: Tennessee's home win Wednesday snapped a three-game losing streak to the Rebels.
Say something: Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy on McRae: "I think (McRae) is a player of the year candidate. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's making jump shots. He's 6-of-7 from 3-point range. He was really shooting it well. When he makes shots like that, because he's so long and wiry, he has the ability to slide through traffic."
By the numbers
1: Henderson had just one less 3-point attempt (19) than UT's entire team (20).
29: Jarnell Stokes recorded his 29th career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
6: McRae hit six of his seven shots from downtown — a season-high.
Up next: Tennessee will go on the road for a third straight weekend as the Vols travel to face Alabama for a 9 p.m. Saturday tip.