Vols lose SEC title game, but earn third seed for NCAA Tournament
ST. LOUIS (UT Athletics) — Despite erasing a 17-point deficit, No. 2-seeded Tennessee fell to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, 77-72, at the Scottrade Center on Sunday afternoon. But the season is far from over. Vols head to Dallas as the NCAA’s third seed in the South region. They play No. 14 Wright State on Thursday.
Here’s your official 2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket. pic.twitter.com/dSiLrzyNYc
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 11, 2018
All-SEC wing Admiral Schofield led the Vols (25-8) with 22 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. He was Tennessee’s lone representative on the All-Tournament Team.
SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams chipped in 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three steals.
After a corner three by Jordan Bone banked off the glass for a much-needed basket, Tennessee made it a 68-67 game in favor of UK with 1:13 remaining. The Wildcats (24-10) sealed the game, though, after a step-back jumper and a pair of free throws made it 72-67. Bone finished with 12 points and four assists.
The Big Orange were aggressive to start the second half, using a 10-2 run capped off by a three from Schofield to give UT a 41-38 lead at the 16:34 mark.
Kentucky responded with a 14-2 run of its own to gain a 52-43 advantage with 12:29 left, forcing the Vols to call a timeout. Just when it seemed the Wildcats were going to pull ahead, the Volunteers went on a 14-3 run of their own to regain a 57-55 lead, finished by SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner’s deep three to beat the shot clock. He finished with 10 points and four assists.
Everything was falling for Kentucky in the first half, as the Cats took a 33-16 lead with less than five minutes left in the period. With the game on the line, the Vols responded by going on a 15-3 run to go into halftime down just five at 36-31.
Schofield was the spark behind the run for the Big Orange, dropping 13 points behind three consecutive treys during the final 3:17 of play. He had 17 points and eight rebounds in the half to pace all players.
The Wildcats held a huge advantage on the offensive end, converting on 47 percent (14-of-30) of their field-goal attempts compared to Tennessee’s 28-percent (9-of-32) from the floor. Yet, UT had all the momentum heading into the break after erasing a 17-point deficit.
Shooting would end up being the deciding factor in the game, as Kentucky knocked down 50 percent of its shots while the Vols only shot 37 percent from the field.
THE ADMIRAL TAKES OVER: In the final minutes of the first half, with Tennessee facing a 17-point deficit, All-SEC wing Admiral Schofield got hot offensively to get the Vols back into the game. The junior had 13 points during the last 3:17 of playing in the frame, including three straight threes. He posted 17 points and eight rebounds in the first half and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
UP NEXT: Tennessee heads to the “Big Dance.” This is Tennessee’s 21st all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and its first since 2014, when it advanced to its seventh Sweet Sixteen.
Boasting a 25-8 overall record, the Vols earned the No. 3 seed in the South Region and will face Wright State in the first round on Thursday in Dallas.
University of Tennessee students can request NCAA Tournament tickets via BigOrangeTix.com. For general fans, any tickets that are not claimed by Tennessee Fund members will be available for purchase at the start of business Tuesday by visiting AllVols.com, calling 1-800-332-8657 or visiting the UT Ticket Office at Thompson-Boling Arena.
No player on Tennessee’s roster has ever played in the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Rick Barnes, however, is making his 23rd appearance as a head coach. The National Coach of the Year candidate is now one of only 13 head coaches ever to lead four different Division I programs to the NCAA Tournament, as he previously took Providence, Clemson and Texas to The Big Dance.