The No. 13 Tennessee Vols (24-7, 11-5) needed a big second half to avoid being upset by the LSU Tigers (11-20, 2-14), in the first round of the SEC tournament. The Vols managed to beat LSU by a final score of 59-49.
Wayne Chism finished the night with 17 points and 11 rebounds, making it his sixth double-double of the season.
The Vols seemingly overlooked the Tigers in this game, as if they were already getting prepared to face Mississippi in the quarterfinals.
Despite being ranked ahead of No. 2 seed Vanderbilt, the Vols drew the third seed in the East Division, making them the only ranked team to play on the first day of the Southeastern Conference tournament. So it was a major shock for the Vols to play as sloppy as they did against the Tigers, who were the No. 6 seed in the West Division.
The Vols had absolutely nothing going for themselves in the first half, as they were turning the ball over frequently and were shooting a horrific 25.9 percent from the floor; 1-9 from three-point range. Fortunately for the Vols, LSU struggled to take advantage of the Vols terrible first half, resulting in a 21-21 halftime score.
However, Bruce Pearl couldn't point any fingers at Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince, or Brian Williams at halftime. For they had combined for 20 of the teams 21 points and were shooting a combined 50% compared to the rest of the team shooting a horrific 0-13 from the floor.
Someone needed to step up besides those three for the Vols in the second half.
The Vols would find that player in Bobby Maze.
Just a minute in to the second half Bobby Maze pulled up at the top of the key and knocked down a three-point jumper to put the Vols ahead 24-23. This would not nearly be as big as what he would do in the closing few minutes of this game.
With 2:02 remaining in the game, Maze went to the free throw line with the Vols up 50-41. He sunk both free throws giving Bruce Pearl's club a comfortable lead. Then just 30 seconds later he would go to the line again and knock down two more to put the Vols up 52-43.
However, the Tigers wouldn't go away without a fight as Tasmin Mitchell hit a big three-point jumper with 1:19 left in the game to cut the Vols lead to 52-46. Bobby Maze would then take control again, as he drew contact on his shot and went to the charity stripe for two more free throws. Which he made with ease.
Before the game was over, Maze would visit the free throw line on two more occasions, connecting on 3-4. So in the last two minutes of the game Maze went to the free throw line five times and made 9-10. This was huge considering the Vols won by 10 points.
Maze finished with 14 points, helping the Vols outscore LSU 38-28 in the second half.
Brian Williams had a tremendous night too, as he scored seven points and recorded a career high 14 rebounds.
The Vols out-rebounded the Tigers 36-31.
A win is still a win no matter how it comes, but this game definitely will open the eyes of the Tennessee Vols players, as they know they didn't prepare hard enough for the Tigers.
So they will now have to face a much tougher team in that of the Mississippi Rebels, and if the Vols go into this game with the same mindset as they did against LSU they will surely be on the other end of this game.
But as for now, the Vols have escaped defeat and will live to see another day.
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