Photographs by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford (0) goes up for a layup against Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) during an SEC Tournament game Saturday, March 10, 2018, in St. Louis.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
ST. LOUIS -- Tennessee's shooting cooled off considerably against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second half of Saturday's SEC Tournament semifinal matchup.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the Volunteers' shooting needed to go into arctic regions for Arkansas to overtake Tennessee.
The No. 13 Vols beat the Razorbacks 84-66 at Scottrade Center before an announced crowd of 18,729 after shooting 76 percent in the first half to build a 19-point lead.
Tennessee (25-7) advances to play Kentucky (23-10) in today's championship game after the Wildcats beat Alabama 86-63 in Saturday's first semifinal.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (23-11) will head home to await today's announcement about who and where the Razorbacks will open NCAA Tournament play.
"I don't think it's hit me yet that we're going to the [NCAA] Tournament because I wanted this one so much," said senior guard Daryl Macon, who led the Razorbacks with 19 points. "I wanted this tournament.
"Maybe when I see our named called [today], I might be a little excited. It's not hitting me yet."
Tennessee hit 19 of 26 shots, including 7 of 8 three-pointers, in taking a 48-29 halftime lead.
"We came out the first half and arguably played the best basketball we've played all year," Vols Coach Rick Barnes said. "When we walked off the court at halftime, I said that I wished we could bottle that."
Arkansas senior guard Anton Beard said the Vols played like they wanted the game more than the Razorbacks.
"We didn't give them no resistance in the first half," said Beard, who had 11 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. "In the second half, we tried to change the narrative."
Tennessee opened the second half by shooting 1 of 7 -- including missed layups by forwards Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams -- and Arkansas pulled within 53-42 on Beard's steal and layup with 15:24 left.
But the Razorbacks couldn't draw closer than 11 points the rest of the game, and the Vols pushed their lead to as many as 20 at 82-62.
"I thought they were fresher, I thought they were crisper than we were," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought they had more energy than we did."
Arkansas was playing its third game in three days after beating South Carolina 69-64 and No. 23 Florida 80-72.
It was the second SEC Tournament game for Tennessee, which opened with a 62-59 victory over Mississippi State on Friday night.
"I thought the toll of three days might have caught up with us," Anderson said. "But I love what took place in the second half.
"I thought our guys came out and showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart. They dug down real deep after being down 19 at halftime."
Tennessee sophomore point guard Jordan Bone hit a jump shot eight seconds into the game and stayed hot. He scored 19 points on 8 of 11 shots -- including 3 of 4 three-pointers -- and had 4 assists with 1 turnover.
"I just think starting off the game we were really aggressive," Bone said. "It's really just playing within the offense.
"We were playing against a really good defensive team, but we were just getting to our spots and we were making shots."
Tennessee shot 9 of 24 in the second half but still finished at a season-high 57.1 percent (29 of 48). The Vols also shot a season-high 64.7 percent (11 of 17) on three-pointers.
"We didn't have any energy today," Macon said. "I think that's what cost us. We usually play with a lot of energy out there."
Junior forward Admiral Schofield had 16 points and 7 rebounds for the Vols while hitting 2 of 2 three-pointers. Williams, Alexander and James Daniel each added 12 points for the Vols.
Senior guard Jaylen Barford scored 14 points for the Razorbacks. Freshman forward Darious Hall had 11 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, and freshman forward Daniel Gafford had 8 points and 5 rebounds.
"They pretty much just picked us apart," Gafford said. "They got real hot, and we couldn't do anything about it in the first half. But we came out in the second half and played better."
Tennessee had an extra day of rest compared to the No. 6 seed Arkansas because the Vols were the SEC Tournament's No. 2 seed after sharing the conference's regular-season title with Auburn.
"That's the blessing of a double bye," Schofield said. "That's why you compete as hard as you can in the regular season to get a higher seed."
Schofield said he couldn't discredit the Razorbacks, who beat the Vols 95-93 in overtime in Walton Arena on Dec. 30 to open SEC play.
"They're a great team, a very dangerous team if you let them get certain things going in the game that apply to their winning philosophy," he said. "We didn't allow that. We didn't turn the ball over or take bad shots leading to run outs and easy points in transition that eliminated a lot of their scoring."
The Razorbacks are set to make their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and third in four years.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Gafford said. "I just can't wait to see our name on the board so we can get ready to go play in another tournament.
"We've still got a lot more basketball left."
The Razorbacks have won 8 of their past 11 games with the losses to Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee -- all teams projected to be in the NCAA Tournament.
"We're playing real good," Gafford said. "We've got our confidence going. We've just got to make sure we get the rest we need before we come out and play again."
Arkansas rallied from a 1-3 SEC start.
"I'm real, real proud of those guys and what they've done up to this point," Anderson said. "That ends this season. So now we move on to the next season."
Sports on 03/11/2018
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