For the second straight year, Arkansas abruptly ended Vanderbilt's efforts to advance past the quarterfinals. Gary Ervin and Darian Townes scored 18 points apiece, and the Razorbacks used superior athleticism and rebounding to win 81-75 over No. 18 Vanderbilt.
The win, Arkansas' fifth straight in the series and eighth out of the last nine, set up a Saturday semifinal matchup between the Razorbacks (21-10) and No. 4 Tennessee (tipoff at noon CT). It also almost assuredly secured an at-large NCAA Tournament bid for the Hawgs.
The Commodores (26-7), whose NCAA bid was already secure, will now have to sit at home and watch the rest of the SEC Tournament play out on television. They will also have to ponder how they could have been out-rebounded 45-24 by the Razorbacks.
"We just got beaten badly on the boards, and we gave them way too many second opportunities and third and fourth opportunities," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "That was the difference in the game. They just pounded us on the boards, which is disappointing."
"I felt like I let the team down defensively and on the boards," said Vandy sharp-shooter Shan Foster, who never found a rhythm in being held to only 14 points. "They did a good job of staying close to me and not allowing me to get free on shots, but like Coach said, it really came down to defense and rebounding."
Arkansas became the only team to defeat Vanderbilt twice this season. The Razorbacks had edged the Commodores 78-73 in Fayetteville on Mar. 1, a win that had snapped a seven-game Vanderbilt winning streak.
But Friday's loss may have been even more painful.
With a staggering 22 offensive rebounds, Arkansas was able to put up 63 field goal attempts to Vanderbilt's 45. Vanderbilt meanwhile was unable to match its torrid 67-percent shooting percentage from Thursday's game against Auburn, dropping to 47 percent. The Razorbacks shot 46 percent. Vandy did sink 25-of-34 free throws.
Arkansas, the No. 2 seed from the SEC West, never trailed in the contest, though there were two ties in the second half. An afternoon Georgia Dome crowd of 18,020 watched as John Pelphrey's Razorbacks pulled away after a 58-58 tie and salted away the win with solid free throw shooting.
If there was a bright spot for Vandy, it was that senior guard Alex Gordon broke out of a scoring slump, leading all scorers with 22 points. He became the 38th player in school history to reach 1,000 points in his career, finishing with 1,001.
Foster, who sank two 3-pointers, now has 366 in his career, tying Arkansas' Pat Bradley for second place in SEC history for 3-pointers made.
The Commodores must now wait to learn their NCAA Tournament seeding and destination. That news should come with Sunday evening's Selection Show on CBS-TV.
"We have to go back to practice and continue to work hard and get better at the things we didn't do so well at today, and head into the NCAA Tournament with our heads held high and ready to play," said Foster.
Tennessee senior Chris Lofton dropped in a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to give the SEC regular season champion Vols (29-3) an 89-87 win over South Carolina (14-18) in the other afternoon quarterfinal. It was most likely the last game for Gamecock coach Dave Odom, who had announced he would retire at the end of the season.