After blowout wins for the home teams in the first two contests this season between the Kentucky Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers, the college basketball world was hoping that game number three in Nashville would deliver. It did. Eight points was the biggest lead either team possessed on the night. In the end, The Vols ground out an 82-78 victory over the Cats and gave their NCAA Tournament standing a late boost in the process.
In the first half, Admiral Schofield made sure everyone knew Tennessee came to play by making his first three 3PT attempts. The third three fell with 14:23 still left to play in the half and made the score 14-15, Kentucky. The first half remained tight with PJ Washington sitting for most of it in foul trouble. Reid Travis buried a three with two seconds left to send the teams into the locker rooms with Tennessee up 36-34.
High level basketball continued to be played in the second half, even with Doug Shows and his officiating crew being extremely liberal with their whistles for both teams. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards made some crucial plays for Kentucky, but the heroes down the stretch were Grant Williams and Jordan Bone for Tennessee. After UK went up 72-64 with 2:58 remaining, Bone made some huge assists and free throws while Williams scored eight points himself from that point on, finishing with 20 for the game.
The knockout blow for the Vols came via a three pointer from Lamonte Turner to put Tennessee up 78-76, with 31 seconds to go. The Vols were the more clutch and composed squad as the game wound down and claimed a well earned victory. Their three veteran leaders, Schofield, Williams and Bone finished with 21, 20 and 18 points respectively.
Tennessee will now face Auburn tomorrow for the SEC Tournament crown.
Following the title game, both teams will learn NCAA fates tomorrow evening. Most fans wouldn’t complain about a potential fourth installment of one of the better single-season rivalries the SEC has seen over the years.