Belmont had Tennessee right where it wanted the Volunteers - again.
However, for the second time this season, the Bruins left Knoxville with a heartbreaking loss.
Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson hit a layup with 5.7 seconds lift to lift the 19th-ranked Vols to a 66-65 victory over Belmont on Thursday night.
Belmont (9-3) dropped its season opener to Tennessee (8-3) in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off last month. In that game, the Bruins rallied from a 17-point second half deficit and had two chances to tie in the closing minute before they fell 85-76.
This time UT led 62-56 with 2:45 to go but Belmont scored seven unanswered points. Jon House capped off the run with a layup that made it 63-62 with 49 seconds remaining. House missed a free throw -- and an opportunity for a two-point lead -- after he was fouled on shot.
Hopson followed with two free throws to put the Volunteers back in front. Undeterred, Belmont’s Drew Hanlen drove inside and found Mick Hedgepeth for a 65-64 lead with 18 seconds to go.
That set the stage for Hopson, who drove the baseline and got help from teammate Brian Williams who blocked out Belmont’s upside defense. That allowed Hopson to drive in for the game-winner.
Kerron Johnson’s desperation 3-pointer missed the mark and Tennessee ended a three-game losing streak.
The Bruins dug a hole early, trailing 35-23 at halftime. They were just of 9-of-38 from the field and 3-of-22 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes. Belmont started the second half with a 9-0 run.
Scott Saunders scored 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench for the Bruins. Hedgepeth added 11 points and Trevor Noack had 10. Leading scorer, Ian Clark, was held scoreless in the first half and scored just six points before fouling out late in the game.
Hopson led Tennessee with 19 points.
Belmont has lost to just Tennessee and Vanderbilt this season. The Bruins have a week off before hosting Miami (Ohio) at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 30.