Big first half propels Vols to SEC tournament championship game

Tricia Pearson
March 12, 2018

The Razorbacks (23-11) have won eight of their past 11 games.

"The way you do that is you take it one game at a time".

"We've just got to get back to the basics, get back to competing, playing hard", Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson said. Arkansas beat Tennessee in Bud Walton Arena on December 30 in the first SEC game for both teams, 95-93 in overtime. Arkansas' victory marked their first against Florida since February 5, 2013.

The Razorbacks, seeded sixth in the field, held off SC to reach Friday's round and now face second-seeded Tennessee in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal.

Coach Frank Martin's South Carolina Gamecocks were 16-15 and the Rebels of interim coach Tony Madlock, temporarily promoted upon the recent resignation of longtime Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, were 12-19, before their game Wednesday.

SEC co-champions Tennessee and Auburn, Florida and fourth-seeded Kentucky all earned byes into Friday's quarterfinals.

Arkansas' potent inside-outside attack was more than Florida could handle in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, even with the Gators' luxury of the double bye in the bracket.

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"We just have a standard we're trying to play toward", Schofield said.

"I thought they got the majority of loose balls, pounded us on the glass, and we really struggled to string together consecutive stops versus a terrific, terrific offensive team".

Among others, SC has beaten SEC co-champ Auburn and also beat those Kentucky Wildcats that thumped Arkansas 87-72 at Walton. Those same Missouri Tigers that beat Arkansas by 10 last Saturday in Columbia, Mo., were upset by Ole Miss last month in Columbia. That's why players were asked about what time they went to sleep.

"They were the aggressor from the tip", Florida coach Mike White said. If not for Stone, the Gators might have lost this game by 20+.

"From the mouth of Arlando Cook, that was the icing on the cake from his perspective", said Gafford, referring to Arkansas' senior forward. "I think it's what cost us", Macon said. They're 4-1 against the spread in their last five games versus the Volunteers and the underdog is also 15-6 at the betting window in the last 21 meetings between these two teams.

Rather, trying to win the Volunteers' first tournament championship in nearly 40 years is always where the Tennessee junior expected to be - even when the Rocky Top faithful were disappointed by a preseason pick of 13th in the SEC.

"All the things that happened against this team all year, we can kind of right it by going out and having a good showing and playing tough basketball". Gafford leads in rebounds with 6.2 while Macon tops in assists with 4.0.

Anderson appears to have the Razorbacks headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.

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