When Bobby Maze stole the ball from Kyle Madsen and was immediately fouled by Evan Turner with 13 seconds remaining in Friday’s game against Ohio State, it’s likely Bruce Pearl couldn’t have hand picked anyone he would rather have at the foul line in that situation.
After Thad Matta called a timeout in an attempt to ice Tennessee’s senior point guard, Maze walked to the free throw line. His teammates, sitting with their arms interlocked with one another, watched intently from the bench.
On the biggest stage and in a game that will go down in Tennessee lore, Maze was undaunted. He he stepped up and knocked down both crucial shots, giving Tennessee a 76-73 lead that it would not relinquish.
He seemingly gained strength from his mother, who had driven twelve hours to watch the game.
“Coach always put us in these situations at practice and you just go up there… I just looked at my mother in the stands and blew a kiss,” said Maze.
“I had to bring this one home. It was no sweat. It was no doubt in my mind that I was going to make them two free throws.”
After the game, while doing post-game interviews, Maze looked up and located his mom in the stands yet again.
“Look at my mother up there crying. Oh, just so much emotion in here.”
“I just can’t say enough about this team,” Maze said. “I’m just happy.”
Maze, who was disappointed by Tennessee’s lack of fan support in the SEC tournament two weeks ago, was quick to acknowledge the huge showing by Vol fans in St. Louis.
“We never made it to the Elite 8, and to see how much support we got,” said Maze. “I remember last time we was in Nashville and I said, you know, we needed more fans to come out. But you couldn’t ask for a bigger crowd tonight.”
Maze, who enjoys proving the critics wrong, had some parting words for the doubters.
“Other than Tennessee and Hubert Davis, a lot of people just had us getting beat,” Maze said. “And to go out there and to prove everybody wrong and to show them that hey, Tennessee’s here.”
“I mean, this is just great.”