[title_box title=”LSU ends Tennessee’s SEC Tournament run”]
Tennessee’s dream of completing an improbable run to the SEC Championship ended Friday at the hands of Ben Simmons and the LSU Tigers, 84-75.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair between the two squads all the way until the sound of the halftime buzzer. The Vols’ slow start on offense led to a 16-7 deficit. LSU’s game plan centered around controlling the paint. They succeeded, scoring 14 of its first 18 points inside.
After playing three games in three days, Tennessee looked fatigued and were unable to run its normal “get-out-and-run” offense. But the Vols remained composed despite failing half-court sets and missed shots.
Tennessee kept the deficit around five points for most of the half. Detrick Mostella and Admiral Schofield hit back-to-back three pointers during the last stretch of the first half. Tennessee ended the half on an 8-2 run, leading to a halftime advantage of 33-32, its first lead of the game.
Antonio Blakeney and Craig Victor II both had six first-half points for LSU. Ben Simmons sat out for the majority of the half due to foul trouble. The Tigers only managed to make one of their seven three-point attempts in the first half.
LSU began the second half aggressively. The Vols quickly saw their one-point lead turn into a seven-point deficit. The offensive struggles that plagued the team early in the game suddenly resurfaced.
Tennessee’s troubles only continued after its three experienced big men, Armani Moore, Schofield, and Derek Reese, all picked up their third fouls. Robert Hubbs III and Mostella failed to manage the offense themselves and LSU pulled away behind its three-point shooting.
The Tigers had three players in double digits. Blakeney finished with 22 points, Simmons scored 15, and Tim Quarterman had 18. The Tigers shot 57 percent from the floor in the second half, including 40 percent from deep.
Hubbs III and Mostella led the Vols in scoring with 19 points apiece.
The game was tight all throughout, and coach Rick Barnes later pointed out a couple of plays that really put the final nail in the coffin for the Vols.
“It was a big swing in the game when we fouled a three-point shooter and then came down and missed two free throws,” Barnes said. “That was really a five-point swing right there.”
Moore agreed with Barnes, saying “We had a lot of crucial turnovers. There were times when we didn’t execute on offense.”
Tennessee’s season came to an end tonight, but Barnes made sure to thank his seniors and team for all its accomplishments.
“I think it speaks a lot about their character,” Barnes said. “The fact that we’ve told them they’re going to look back one day, these seniors, and know that they were a part of really trying to build what we’re going to do going forward.”
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by David Bradford