Vols thump Razorbacks, advance to SEC Championship

No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee beat sixth-seeded Arkansas in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament by a score of 84-66 on Saturday. The Vols lost the first meeting of the season 95-93 on Dec. 30th in Fayetteville. With a chance to play for an SEC Tournament Championship, Tennessee looked locked and loaded from the start.

The Volunteers got off to a strong start behind sophomore guard Jordan Bone. In the first half, Bone went 7-of-7 shooting, while hitting three 3-pointers. His strong first half performance helped the Tennessee take a 19-point lead in to the half. Bone finished the game with a team-high 19 points and four assists in the win.

I just think starting off the game we were really aggressive. It’s really just playing within the offense,” said Bone about his performance. “Shots were falling, and we were playing against a really good defensive team.”

Four other Vols ended the day in double- digit scoring along with Bone. Admiral Schofield scored 16 points while Grant Williams, James Daniel III and Kyle Alexander had 12 points apiece. Alexander also had seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the team, while Williams finished with five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Tennessee is currently on a six-game win streak and have won 13 out of its last 15 games. It seems that head coach Rick Barnes has his team clicking on all cylinders at the right time. The Volunteers have one final game before they find out their fate for the NCAA Tournament, and it comes against their rival to the North, Kentucky.

The Wildcats beat Alabama on Saturday 86-63 prior to Tennessee’s game against the Razorbacks. Tennessee beat Kentucky in the two previous meetings this season. With a championship on the line, the Vols can expect to get the best out of the young Wildcats team.

“They’re a totally different team than they were then. I’ve been watching them,” said Barnes on Kentucky. “His (John Calipari’s) teams always get better late in the year. It looks like they’ve really made a commitment to really play big, strong basketball inside.”

Tennessee has a chance to win their first SEC Tournament Championship since 1979 on Sunday. The Vols beat the Wildcats in their 1979 championship game, as they look to repeat history. Sunday’s game will be the first appearance for Tennessee in the tournament championship game since 2009.

“It’s championship season, fatigue does play a factor,” said Schofield. “But everyone is tired this time of year. The biggest thing is who wants it most.”

With their win over the Razorbacks, the Volunteers continued their perfect record in rematch games on the season. Tip off for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 2 seed Tennessee outlasts Mississippi state in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

Seventh-seeded Mississippi State’s (22-11, 9-9 SEC) surge came too late to upset No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee on Friday, falling 62-59 to the in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Defense kept Tennessee on its feet late in the game. The orange-and-white shot just 33 percent from the field in the win.

Rebounding made the difference for the Volunteers. Tennessee outrebounded the Bulldogs by an impressive 50-33 margin and snagged 22 offensive rebounds in the contest. The Volunteers’ 50 rebounds tied a season-high record. They tallied 22 second-chance points in the win.

“We know that our biggest Achilles heel all year has been rebounding,” Volunteers Head Coach Rick Barnes said. “We talked about it a lot, not so much offensively where we want to go get it but trying to do it on the defensive end.”

Sophomore guard and SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner led Tennessee with 15 points and eight rebounds. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were the only other Vols in double-digit points. They combined for 23 points and 19 rebounds. Williams, who was recently named SEC Player of the Year, notched his first double-double of the season Friday.

Tennessee controlled the lead for the majority of the game until guard Lamar Peters led Mississippi State on a 9-2 run. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to just 51-49 with over six minutes left. However, Turner turned up clutch again for the Vols, making three consecutive shots to hold off the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State failed to capitalize with under a minute left. Guard Xavier Stapleton missed an open attempt from beyond-the-arc that would have given the Bulldogs a lead. The next possession, Tennessee guard Jordan Bone was intentionally fouled and hit both free throws at the charity stripe to put the Vols up 62-59.

The Bulldogs found a chance to send the game into overtime at the final buzzer but were unable to get a shot off. Peters and junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon led Mississippi State with a combined 49 of the team’s 59 points on the loss.

Nick Weatherspoon, freshman guard and younger brother of Quinndary, suffered a scary injury and left the floor on a stretcher after Vols center Kyle Alexander collided with him underneath the rim. News released later Friday night confirmed Weatherspoon was conscious and fully operational at the hospital.

“You pray for then and you have a moment where you have to take a step back, but it’s still a game,” Williams said of Weatherspoon’s injury. “You still have to compete. That’s what you have to understand. You have to talk to your team and let them know we’ve got a 20-minute game left.”

The win boosted Tennessee’s streak to 6-0 against teams in rematch games this season. Barnes and the Volunteers get back in action against Arkansas in the Scottrade Center at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 13 Tennessee looks to make a splash in SEC Tournament

It is that time of year again, when SEC basketball fans alike congregate together and watch their respected teams compete in the annual SEC Tournament. This year’s tournament will be held in St. Louis, Missouri at the Scottrade Center for the first time in the tournament’s history. For all those competing or watching the games, the tournament never disappoints.

After being named Co-Champions of the SEC, the 13th-ranked and No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers (23-7, 13-5 SEC) look to claim an outright title in the tournament and continue their four-game winning streak. Because of the Vols high seeding in this year’s tournament, Tennessee has been awarded a double-bye and will play their first game of the tournament on Friday.

The Volunteers are riding high after head coach Rick Barnes took home the SEC Coach of the Year award, and forward Grant Williams also raked in SEC Player of the Year. Guard Lamonte Turner also notched a Co-Sixth Man of the Year trophy to add on to Tennessee’s success recently.

Still, the Vols have never favored well in the SEC Tournament, as their last tournament championship came in 1979. Facing the winner of Mississippi State or LSU in their first game, Tennessee has to like its chances moving forward. Many concerns arose during the final week of the season in regard to seeding and who the Vols would have to play. It seems now that Tennessee is in a perfect position to make it to the championship game on Sunday.

If they beat the winner of Mississippi State and LSU on Friday, their remaining opponents would be either Ole Miss, South Carolina, Arkansas or Florida. The Volunteers beat all but one team in the group of five, as they lost a heartbreaker to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville on Dec. 30 by a score of 95-93 in overtime. Arkansas is tough to beat at home, and Tennessee’s team has drastically changed since then, which should give Volunteers fans optimism in the tournament.

Dodging teams such as Auburn, Kentucky and Missouri until the championship game is best case scenario for the orange-and-white. Those teams are some of the hottest teams in the league right now, and luckily the Vols would only have to face one in the championship game, if any of them manage to make it that far. Any way you look at it, Tennessee is set up for success in the SEC Tournament this year.

Barnes is 33-29 all-time in conference tournament games and has more total conference tournament wins than the Volunteers do since the re-creation of the SEC Tournament in 1979. His last conference championship came in 1995, when he led Providence to a Big East Championship.

Tennessee’s first game of the tournament will be at 6 p.m. ET on Friday. Each of the SEC Tournament games will be broadcasted on the SEC Network. A win for the Volunteers would advance them to the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 2014.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball earns SEC postseason awards

After finishing with a 23-7 record and winning their first regular season SEC Championship in a decade, the Volunteers received more good news on Tuesday. Head coach Rick Barnes received SEC Coach of the Year, while forward Grant Williams (SEC Player of the Year) and guard Lamonte Turner (Co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year) also brought in hardware.

Media picked Barnes and Tennessee to finish 13th in the SEC in the preseason. The Vols finished the year with a 13-5 conference record and a co-conference Championship. Under Barnes, the Vols picked up seven more wins in 2018 than they had last season with an even 16-16 record.

Tennessee managed to go a perfect 5-0 against their conference rivals in Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida. The Vols also went 8-4 on the road this season. Barnes racked up his fourth conference championship as a head coach with a win over Georgia last Saturday. This conference title marks his first as head coach of the Volunteers.

Only eight other coaches for the orange-and-white received the honor of SEC Coach of the Year. This award marks Barnes’ sixth Coach of the Year honor.

Sophomore forward Grant Williams brought in the first award of his career, as his 16 points per game led Tennessee to its first 20-win season since 2014. Williams became just the 12th Tennessee player to bring in an SEC Player of the Year award. He is the first underclassman to do so since the legendary Bernard King.

Not surprisingly, sophomore guard Lamonte Turner also brought in an award for Tennessee. His clutch 3-point shooting powered his team to an SEC Championship.

Turner won Co-Sixth Man of the Year by averaging just over 10 points per game and being the Volunteers third leading scorer on the season. He shared the award with 6-foot-11 Missouri freshman Jontay Porter who averaged nearly 10 points and seven rebounds per game.

Last but not least, junior forward Admiral Schofield earned a spot as a second-team All-SEC player. He scored over 10 points in 15-of-18 conference games this season. Schofield led the team in minutes played and had the second most points averaged on the team with nearly 14 points per game.

The No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Volunteers get back into action Friday in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. Tennessee will face the winner of Mississippi State and LSU at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Schofield, Williams lead Tennessee to SEC Championship win over Georgia

Head Coach Rick Barnes and No. 16 Tennessee finished off Georgia by a score of 66-61 to be named SEC Champions for the first time since 2008. Barnes earned his first win over Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox as head coach of the Volunteers. Forwards Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams combined for 55 points in the win.

The Vols got out of the gates quick with a 5-0 run, including a friendly roll on a 3-pointer from forward Admiral Schofield. However, the Bulldogs found their footing and took their first lead at the 16:41 mark. Georgia went on a 9-0 run behind a pair of 3-pointers to go up 9-5 after nearly five minutes of play.

Both teams hit a three-minute slump at the 14-minute mark. The teams combined for 7-of-23 shooting halfway through the first half. Tennessee started out cold at the butt-end of a 13-3 run from the Bulldogs with 16 minutes left in the half. But the Volunteers heated back up.

“I thought they were terrific in the first half, I thought we guarded well,” Barnes said. “We stayed with it…We were battling every possession.”

The orange-and-white finally knotted the game back up with 10:51 remaining in the first half with a driving layup from Williams. Georgia didn’t let up, as the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to make it a 21-13 game after Williams’ bucket.

Following a pair of questionable technical fouls called on Schofield and Bulldog Nicolas Claxton, Georgia finished five of its next six shots to go up 27-21 with less than seven minutes left.

The Volunteers did not score for the next three minutes. Schofield nailed a jumper at the 4:51 mark to put Tennessee within four points of the lead. Schofield made 4-of-7 shots, while the rest of his teammates went just 5-of-19 from the field with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Schofield’s efforts, 12 first half points, were not enough to put the Vols back in the lead. Tennessee fell behind 42-34 at the half. Georgia was a hot 58 percent from the field and 7-of-12 from 3-point range at the half. Meanwhile, the Volunteers were an abysmal 36 percent from beyond-the-arc and 34 percent from the field.

The Bulldogs gave Tennessee fits to start the second half. The Volunteers did not make a field goal for four minutes starting at the 19-minute mark. However, Tennessee managed to cut the deficit to 45-44 with back-to-back buckets from Schofield. The Vols forced a more than six-minute scoring drought from the Bulldogs who missed seven straight shots starting at the 19-minute mark.

Georgia finally stopped the drought with a layup from Claxton with more than 11 minutes left to play in the game. Still, Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner drilled a deep 3-point shot to tie the game up at 49 and turn the tide for the orange-and-white.

The Volunteers notched their first significant lead of the game at 55-53 with another clutch 3-point shot from Turner with a little more than six minutes left in the game.

Three minutes later, Williams fouled out on a questionable call, but Turner answered again for Tennessee with yet another 3-pointer to cut the Bulldogs lead to 61-60. A pair of free throws from Jordan Bowden and a fade away jumper from Schofield gave the Volunteers a 64-61 lead with under 30 second remaining. The rest is history.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Barnes said. “But we were much tougher in the last seven or eight minutes than we were in Athens.”

Forwards Yante Maten and Rayshaun Hammonds led the Bulldogs with a combined 30 points and 13 rebounds of the night. Jackson Williams II was the only other Georgia player with more than 10 points.

“It means the world man, it’s a blessing,” Williams said about being an SEC Champion. “We have a long way to go. It’s not over yet.”

Tennessee shares the SEC regular season title with Auburn (25-6) who got a win over South Carolina earlier in the day.

Next, Tennessee travels to St. Louis for the SEC Tournament as a No. 2 seed. The Vols earned a double-bye. Tennessee will play the winner of LSU and Mississippi State on Friday.

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Turner buries No. 24 Kentucky to sweep Cats for first time since 1999

Lamonte Turner etched his name in Tennessee basketball history books Tuesday night.

Trailing 58-56 with 28 seconds remaining and 10 seconds left on the shot clock, Turner drilled a deep three to give Tennessee a 59-58 lead.

“I had confidence,” Turner said to the Vol Network following the game. “When it left my hand, I was pretty sure it was going in.”

“He’s a competitor,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of Turner. “He’s not afraid to take the shot.”

Following Turner’s clutch three, Jordan Bowden forced a turnover and threw it ahead to Admiral Schofield who threw down a vicious dunk. The dunk gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead with four seconds remaining and put the dagger in Kentucky.

“As a group, our guys look at each other and they believe in each other,” Barnes said. “We just kept talking, let’s stay with it defensively and rebound the ball, and we’ll find something on the other end.”

As a result, No. 15 Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) picked up its first win in Rupp Arena since 2006 and sweeps the season-series with No. 24 Kentucky (17-7, 6-5 SEC) for the first time since 1998-99.

“It’s very important,” Turner said when asked about sweeping Kentucky. “It’s a great feeling. When I get back home, I think I’ll realize how big of a win it really is.”

The matchup wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the Vols on Tuesday night. For the first time in quite some time, the Vols offense didn’t show up ready to play.

The one person who did come ready to play though was Turner. The redshirt-sophomore out of Huntsville, Alabama carried Tennessee through an ugly first half. Turner led Tennessee with 16 points on the night, 11 of which came in the first half.

In the opening frame, Turner’s teammates were just 6-of-20 from the field and 0-of-7 from the three-point line while Turner was 4-of-6 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond-the-arc.

Despite the offensive struggles in the first half, Tennessee built a 27-26 halftime lead thanks to its play on the defensive end. In the first ten minutes of the half, Kentucky shot just 1-of-9 from the field and turned it over five times. The Cats didn’t score their first field goal until 14 and a half minutes into the game.

The loss of Kyle Alexander played a big role in the Vols’ first half struggles. With 12:25 remaining in the half, Alexander picked up his second foul and was forced to sit on the bench for the remainder of the half. In just six minutes, the junior had scored four points, hauled in two rebounds, blocked two shots and picked up a steal.

Bowden stepped up in the second half while his teammates struggled, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes.

The affair flipped back-and-forth in the second half, as neither team led by more than three points until Grant Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to take a 50-46 lead.

The Cats would then go on a 7-0 run capped by a Kevin Knox and-one to take a 53-50 lead. Following a pair of Bowden free throws, Tennessee cut the lead to one.

After Kentucky took a 58-56 lead, Alexander forced a game-changing Kentucky turnover. Barnes then called a timeout that set up the Turner three to take the lead–a lead that the Vols wouldn’t give up on their way to just their fifth all-time win in Rupp Arena.

Bowden would go on to finish with 13 points and eight rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting. Schofield finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Grant Williams scored 10 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line.

Tennessee has little time to soak in the victory. The Vols will head to Tuscaloosa Saturday to take on a talented but young Alabama team at 6 p.m. ET.

“This is the best basketball league in the country, and I don’t know why people don’t want to own up to that,” Barnes said as his team gears up for another tough challenge. “If it keeps going like it is right now, this league should have nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. It’s as competitive as any league I’ve coached in.”

“It’s all Alabama now,” Turner said.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics