It was an electric atmosphere last night in Thompson-Boling Arena, as No. 16 Tennessee defeated Georgia by a score of 66-61 to earn its first SEC title since 2008.
The stakes were high and the atmosphere was electric. Some described Admiral Schofield‘s dunk as one of the loudest moments ever in TBA. While that may or may not be true, it isn’t debatable that the fans had a huge impact on last night’s win. Bravo to the those in attendance. These players deserve our support.
Tennessee is starting to feel like Tennessee again
I can’t fully explain it, but something about Saturday night felt like “Tennessee” again. Alvin Kamara was recognized at halftime for his accomplishments in earning the NFL Rookie of the Year award; Ron Slay took the microphone and pleaded with the crowd to stand and be loud down the stretch, in a way that only he could; Phillip Fulmer was on the court announcing the SEC Championship and introducing Rick Barnes. It was a magical night, and somehow I can’t help but think it’s a precursor of things to come for this program.
Lamonte Turner didn’t have a stellar first half but knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half and each and every one of them was crucial. Trailing 61-57 and Grant Williams on the bench with three fouls, the game seemed to be slipping away. Tennessee’s offense was indecisive and time was ticking down when Turner, with a hand in his face, drained a 3-pointer from 23-feet away with six seconds left on the shot clock. It was one of the biggest clutch buckets of the game.
Clutch defense down the stretch
Admiral Schofield, who has been one of the best players in the Southeastern Conference the past couple of weeks, made the first of two key defensive plays in the final three minutes. With Georgia pushing on the break with numbers, Schofield left his man and slid in front of Yante Maten (who had beaten Kyle Alexander) and drew a charge with 2:10 remaining, just before Maten was able to kick the ball to a wide-open Tyree Crump behind the three-point line. Crump was 2-4 from beyond the arc up to that point.
The second big play came when Georgia trailed by one point with under a minute to go. They worked the ball around the perimeter to set up the interior pass to Maten. But with 41.9 seconds to go, Kyle Alexander lunged around Maten and deflected the pass to Turner, giving the Vols possession of the basketball with the lead. Alexander also did work on the boards, finishing with nine big rebounds.
As a unit, Tennessee held Georgia to 19 points in the second half, after the Bulldogs hot shooting blistered the Vols for 42 in the first half.
It’s the little things
Tennessee didn’t shoot the ball particularly well against Georgia, making 38.9% of its shots in the game — 34.5% in the first half. The Vols were also outrebounded by 10, 38-28.
But Tennessee made 17-18 free throw attempts, dished out 15 assists, and only turned the ball over four times. Incredible statistics.
Tennessee now turns its attention to the Southeastern Conference Tournament. As the league’s No. 2 seed, the Vols will play on Friday night at 7 p.m. against the winner of 7-seed Mississippi State and 10-seed LSU.
The glorious sights and sounds of champions
Champions! pic.twitter.com/h37ieZImpQ— VolNation.com (@VolNation) March 4, 2018
FEELS GOOD pic.twitter.com/GG33KDbjlF— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 4, 2018
SEC Champs!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 4, 2018
No. 16 Tennessee earns a share of the SEC title, defeating Georgia 66-61 in the regular season finale! pic.twitter.com/BNzHWVuhAc