Tennessee trailed Vanderbilt 59-47 with just over six minutes remaining in Thursday’s SEC tournament game. With a slew of three-pointers, the Vols finished the game on a 20-2 run, defeating Vanderbilt 67-61.
Head coach Donnie Tyndall was pleased with his team’s resilience. “Basketball is a game of spurts and runs,” he said. “Fortunately, we closed it out the right way.”
Tyndall added, “Our mentality today was to drive the ball. We did not settle. We tried to drive the ball and get to the paint. We have not played well a few times this year, but we have played the right way … Tonight we said, ‘We are going to find a way to win.'”
With the win, the Vols moved to 16-15 overall for the season. Vanderbilt – who had won its previous five games – fell to 19-13.
Josh Richardson led the way once again in scoring for Tennessee, finishing with 22 points. Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones dominated in the paint and finished with a double-double. Jones accounted for 18 points and 15 rebounds.
While an NIT tournament berth looks dubious, Tennessee could throw their name into the hat with a good showing in the SEC tournament. If they were to win the whole thing, they would get an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee’s next bout in the SEC tournament is against Arkansas – a team that the Vols split the regular season with. The Razorbacks play an up-tempo, hectic style of basketball and take a lot of shots. They will be fresh, having had a first round bye in the tournament.
“We have to get hydrated and get our legs back for a huge challenge against Arkansas … We will start watching them in about 30 minutes. There is no time to celebrate or bask in the glory this time of year (over the Vanderbilt win),” Tyndall said.
“Have you seen their team? You guys think we match up well? We have six guys that equal Bobby Portis,” he added.
Portis, the SEC Player of the Year, has been an instrumental part of Arkansas’ success this season. Portis nearly averages a double-double and is capable of scoring 20 points on most nights.
The Hogs and Vols will tip off at 6 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.
Edited by Maggie Jones