No. 8 Tennessee Advances to 2019 SEC Championship with Win vs. No. 4 Kentucky

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

Tennessee's Grant Williams, right, protects the ball from Kentucky forward EJ Montgomery (23) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers defeated the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats 82-78 on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, to advance to the finals of the SEC tournament.

With the Vols trailing 76-75, junior guard Lamonte Turner hit a go-ahead three-pointer with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation to seal the semifinal victory.

Tennessee won the season series 2-1 over Kentucky with Saturday's triumph, and it kept alive the Volunteers' hopes of earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee will face the No. 22 Auburn Tigers in the SEC tournament title game on Sunday.

The trio of Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone led the way for Tennessee, as they combined for 59 of the Volunteers' points. Williams was especially dominant in the second half, as he registered 17 of his 20 points after halftime.

Schofield led all scorers with 21 points, and Bone chipped in 18 for the victors.

Tennessee trailed by eight points with 2:58 to go, but it closed on a remarkable 18-6 run to send Kentucky home early and severely damage the Wildcats' chances of landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

ESPN's Peter Burns commented on the big-game feel of Saturday's clash after the Volunteers prevailed in a thriller:

Kentucky overcame a two-point halftime deficit and appeared to be in firm control of the game in the closing minutes until Tennessee went unconscious from the field. In addition to Turner's game-winner, Williams hit a go-ahead three with 1:32 remaining that helped spark the Tennessee comeback.

Although it is likely that Kentucky will have to settle for a No. 2 seed at best in the NCAA tournament, Aaron Torres of Fox Sports Radio believes both the Volunteers and Wildcats showed they are worthy of a No. 1 seed:

All five Kentucky starters scored in double figures Saturday, led by PJ Washington's 16. Even in defeat, the Wildcats proved to be a deep and talented team capable of going on a deep NCAA tourney run.

Kentucky has lost twice to Tennessee over its past five games, though, while the Vols have won five of their past six games.

Tennessee will be favored to win the SEC title game over Auburn on Sunday, but the Tigers beat the Volunteers 84-80 in their regular-season finale, and they are a huge threat to pull off the upset considering their high level of play as of late with seven consecutive wins.

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