The last four teams that are competing for the 2019 SEC tournament championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament took to the court Saturday at the Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee.
There have already been upsets along the way. LSU, the SEC regular-season champion, was sent home when Andrew Nembhard hit a three-pointer with one second remaining to keep Florida's hopes alive.
The Gators will have to beat Auburn in the semifinals if they want to win their first tournament title since 2014. The Tigers haven't won the SEC tournament championship since 1985, one year after Charles Barkley went to the NBA.
The marquee matchup of the day will see Kentucky and Tennessee square off for the third time this season. The two teams split their first two meetings, with each winning in a blowout on their home court.
Saturday Semifinal Schedule/Results
No. 5 Auburn def. No. 8 Florida, 65-62
No. 3 Tennessee def. No. 2 Kentucky, 82-78
SEC Tournament Championship Game
Matchup: No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 3 Tennessee
Date: Sunday, March 17 at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Tennessee 82, Kentucky 78
Trailing by eight points with under three minutes remaining, Tennessee went on an 18-6 run to stun Kentucky in the second SEC tournament semifinal.
Lamonte Turner, who had just seven points, played the role of hero for Tennessee with the go-ahead three-pointer with 31 seconds to play:
This game was a stark contrast to the two they played during the regular season. Those meetings were decided by a combined total of 36 points. It wasn't until the 7:33 mark of the second half Saturday when either team led by as many as five points (Kentucky 63-58).
Tennessee's late comeback happened because the team went 4-of-4 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line over the final 2:58. That run also helped end 40 years of frustration for the Vols against their SEC rivals:
Admiral Schofield continued his excellent play in the SEC tournament. The senior star followed up his 20-point showing against Mississippi State by dropping 21 on the Wildcats.
All five Kentucky starters scored in double figures, led by PJ Washington with 16. Ashton Hagans posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists in defeat.
The Volunteers advanced to the SEC championship game for the second straight year after losing to Kentucky in 2018.
After exorcizing their postseason demons against the Wildcats, Tennessee will look to avenge its March 9 loss to Auburn by winning the SEC tournament for the first time since 1979.
Auburn 65, Florida 62
One day after Florida upset LSU on a last-second shot, Auburn returned the favor by sending the Gators home on Jared Harper's clutch three with 13 seconds remaining.
Florida got to within one point at 61-60 after Kevarrius Hayes' dunk with 1:12 left in regulation. The Tigers cracked down on defense, holding the Gators scoreless for the next 65 seconds before Jalen Hudson made a layup.
There was controversy on the final play when the officials didn't call a foul on Auburn, even though three players appeared to make contact with Nembhard as he tried to get off a potential game-tying three:
The Gators lost a game in which they shot 60.5 percent from the field, adding to their misery. Hudson and Hayes combined to score 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
Auburn came out on top thanks to a 13-6 advantage in three-pointers and 19 forced turnovers. Harper and Bryce Brown combined to score 31 of the 43 points from the Tigers' starting lineup.
The loss will force Florida to sweat things out on Selection Sunday. Mike White's team is just 19-15 overall (9-9 in SEC play) with two wins over LSU.
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi had the Gators among his last four byes as a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region. A close loss to a ranked Auburn team shouldn't hurt their standing, but the remaining conference tournaments could narrow the bubble.
Auburn was a lock for the NCAA tournament, regardless of what happened in this game. Getting the opportunity to play for an SEC title after losing in the first round each of the previous three years is a significant step in the right direction for head coach Bruce Pearl.