Vols fans optimistic after opening win in SEC tourney

LSU's Brandon Rachal dunks the ball during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against the Mississippi State at the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday

The No. 13 Volunteers (25-7) showed off for all the SEC to see against the sixth-seeded Razorbacks, putting on a shooting exhibition in the first half and setting up a third meeting this season with Kentucky in Sunday's championship game. The Wildcats will start their quest for a ninth national championship way out west. Win or lose that game, it's a different basketball tournament next week. "Calipari just gets his guys to play in March and they did just that here".

Then came the Vols' rare win in Rupp Arena to cap the regular season sweep, with Barnes' bunch holding Kentucky to 59 points to survive their own offensive struggles. The Wildcats (24-10) were one defeat away last month from what would have been the longest losing streak in the Calipari era, but they have won seven of eight since - including their first in three tries this season against the No. 2 seed Volunteers. "I'd rather take a loss right now because it's going to motivate us for the tournament". "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". "I know that it was a big game for us. Like he kept saying all year, he needed time to grow up, and they picked a good time of year to do it".

Kentucky beat Tennessee 77-72 in a dramatic tourney title game that saw the Vols' valiant comeback from 17 points down fall short after four lead changes in the second half. In 36 minutes, Peters added 22 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 2 blocks and 5 threes with 2 turnovers.

Lamar Peters led the Bulldogs with 22 points and Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 17 points. Grant Williams is averaging 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game to lead the team while Admiral Schofield is adding 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The Wildcats shot 64 percent from the floor, made 12 3-pointers and had 20 assists on 27 made field goals.

Kentucky 33, Tennessee 18 with less than four minutes to go in the first half.

"The first two games, we were more locked in than we were tonight", he said.

Hot shooting propelled No. 2 seed Tennessee to an impressive 84-66 wire-to-wire victory over the sixth-seeded Arkansas in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Scottrade Center. But in the sea of confetti and Kentucky blue there were lessons learned for the next tournament and its even higher stakes.

The Volunteers, who earned a share of the SEC regular season title and reached the SEC Tournament Championship Game, were a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

But of course, Cal got them to peak at the right time for the fourth year in a row and now BBN is rolling into the tournament looking strong.

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