Vols Eviscerate Alabama

After losing at the buzzer to Bama five days ago in Knoxville, the Vols bounced back with a buzzer-to-buzzer victory in the quarter finals of the SEC Tournament over a Tide squad that never sniffed the lead during the course of the 86-62 thumping.

Appearing fresher, better focused and more intense than in the regular season finale, the Vols jumped out to a 9-2 lead and never allowed Alabama to close the gap to less than six points. The Vols built their advantage to 11 at the half 43-32.

They put the game out of reach with a 17-0 run to start the second half that was a virtual clone of the first (43-30) as UT (20-11) pulled steadily ahead, reaching a 28-point bulge at 60-32. The key was the Vols ability to score in transition and get point blank shots in the paint.

The Vols front-line of Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince led the Vols with 22, 15 and 14 points respectively. Big Brian Williams scored eight points off the bench on 4-of-4 shooting with four rebounds in 18 minutes of play. Collectively this foursome of forwards shot 23 of 44 from the field and pulled down 27 rebounds, including a game-high 10 by Prince.

The revenge win advanced Tennessee to the Saturday's semifinals against Auburn which scored a 58-55 victory in late game of Friday's tournament slate. UT's 86-point total included 60 points in the paint on 30 baskets.

"Well, I'm just I guess I'm a fan of history," Pearl said in the post game press conference. "You know, we've got a great history. We're celebrating 100 years of Tennessee basketball this year. We've got a terrific history. Just here recently in the SEC Tournament we've just not played it enough Saturdays, and we've not played it enough Sundays."

Another of the keys to playing on Saturday was UT's performance at the free throw-line, as it impressively turned a weakness into a strength by knocking down 12 of 15 foul shots after making only 10 of 22 in 70-67 setback in Knoxville.

UT was able to get into the transition phase of it's offense and pushed the pace at every opportunity. It maintained good spacing and consistently made the extra pass for the higher percentage shot. The Vols finished with 20 assists vs. 10 turnovers compared to Bama's 18 turnovers vs. four assists.

The only area the Vols didn't fare well was from the perimeter, as they hit only 4-of-24 triples in the game. However Bama wasn't much better at 4 of 19 from three-point range.

"One of the things that was a concern, first half we were 1 for 14 from the three, and we were still 4 for 24 from three," Pearl said. "And probably 20 to 24 were good looks. So our three point shooting has got to continue to improve. Because J.P. Prince and Tyler are very difficult to cover off the bounce. And we've got, I don't know how many points we had in the paint, but 60 points in the paint today. That's against a really big, physical Alabama team. And I think that more had to do with us in transition, and also the spacing in our zone offensive attack was good.

"We did a better job on the foul line. We didn't miss 15 free throws or whatever we missed last time we played."

It's an area UT will need to improve if it hopes to advance past an Auburn team that comes in having won 9 of it's last 10, including a 78-77 victory over Tennessee in Auburn on Feb. 7.

The Vols get a chance to avenge another buzzer beater and advance to the SEC finals for the first time in 18 years against the red hot Tigers. Saturday's contest is broadcast on Raycom beginning at 3:15 EDT.

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