Tennessee rode a magnificent second half to a 78-63 win over LSU, which took on another bad loss at a really bad time.
The first half was tight throughout, with neither team leading by more than five points at any point. It was a good showing for the Vols but was nothing LSU couldn't handle given both teams' play through the season. It also gave no indication to how the game would end up.
As the AP game recap notes, the second half was an entirely different story:
Tennessee shot 69 percent from the field (18 of 26), including 63 percent on 3-pointers (5 of 8) in the final 20 minutes. The Volunteers outscored LSU 45-30 in the second half en route to their highest point total of the season.
How odd is it that Tennessee finished two points shy of 80 on the night? UT was coming off of a five-game losing streak in which it failed to hit 60 twice and failed to even hit 50 twice. The Vols hadn't made it to 70 points in regulation since a 71-63 win over Auburn on January 31, and this was only the third time in SEC play they've passed 70 in regulation.
In short, this game was a complete offensive revelation for the team. Josh Richardson led the way with 20, while Armani Moore had 19 points and eight rebounds. It was a good defensive showing as well. LSU shot just 40.4% from the field, and Tennessee had nine steals and six blocks.
I wish I could say this was out of character for the Tigers, but it's not at all. It's not just a consequence of Johnny Jones basically playing a six-man rotation all year, as puzzling losses have come throughout this campaign. Keith Hornsby did have 25 points to lead all scorers, while Jarell Martin had 16. Martin only had five rebounds, though, while Jordan Mickey was quiet with just nine points and eight boards. LSU was at home playing an inferior team, and though Tennessee did get hot in the second half, the Tigers just couldn't match the energy and intensity. Instead, they are now dealing with yet another blow to their tournament resume.
To be clear, losing to UT is not as bad as losing to Missouri or Mississippi State was. Still though, the Vols were in the triple digits of RPI heading into the game. We'll see how things shake out, but this easily could end up a fourth 100+ RPI loss for the Tigers. As long as we're looking at the bubble, this loss also hurts Texas A&M by proxy. LSU is the only top-50 RPI win the Aggies have (and they have two of them, thanks to a season sweep), but the Tigers may not finish in the top 50 thanks to this game and what it could mean going forward.
There is a lot more pressure now on LSU to beat Arkansas on Saturday to say the least.