NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee vs. Kentucky Part III went from track meet to college basketball at its finest, with two titans clashing on the hardwood, a trip to the SEC Tournament final and a possible No. 1 seed on the line. The win and the series go to Tennessee, 80-78 the final.
Both teams came flying out the gate, scoring 24 points combined in the first five minutes of action, going 4-4 from three. This game had the feeling of a heavyweight boxing match. Teams trading body blows and the lead.
Admiral Schofield still had some power in his right hook. After scoring 20 points and shooting 9/12 from the field against Mississippi State in the quarterfinals, Schofield added 21 against Kentucky.
But the tide started to turn for the Wildcats in the second half. After having one of his best games of the season and scoring the most points against a SEC opponent in his career, Kyle Alexander picked up his fifth foul with 10:55 left to go in the second half.
Fouls were a bit of a theme for the second half. After the teams combined for just 10 fouls in the first half, the officials were active in the second with both teams playing much of the final ten minutes in the double bonus.
With less than three minutes left to play, Kentucky had its largest lead of the game, up eight points. With its back against the ropes, Tennessee’s best player stood tall in the ring. After scoring just three points in the first half, Grant Williams scored 17 points in the second half, including eight in the final three minutes. Down one point with less than a minute left, Schofield drove to the basket and kicked it out to Lamonte Turner. He made his first three of the game to give Tennessee the lead. Four clutch free throws from Jordan Bone put a bow on the win. Tennessee wins the game and wins the series against Kentucky.
Tennessee will play Auburn and former head coach Bruce Pearl for the SEC Tournament title on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. Tennessee lost to the Tigers to finish the regular season. The Vols have not won the conference tournament title since 1979.