UT Vols basketball in SEC Tournament title game after beating … – Knoxville News Sentinel


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Tennessee guard Jordan Bone recaps UT’s win against Arkansas.
Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

ST. LOUIS — Jordan Bone had a moment for Tennessee basketball on Friday night.

The sophomore guard scored back-to-back slashing layups against Mississippi State in sudden fashion, as he has the innate ability to do. His teammates mobbed him because the Vols find understandable excitement in their speedy point guard making such plays. They just want him to do it more.

On Saturday, Bone had a lot of moments and got mobbed again — and for obvious reason, as he flew to the rim and buried jumpers at a torrid pace.

Rexrode: Vols can beat Kentucky, go deep in NCAA Tournament with Jordan Bone’s ‘super power’

Tennessee caught fire alongside Bone, racing past Arkansas 84-66 behind a first-half onslaught to head to Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship game for the first time since 2009.

“We came out the first half and arguably played the best basketball we’ve played all year,” Vols coach Rick Barnes said. “Jordan Bone was terrific and the team actually feeds a lot off him when he’s out there playing with the speed and quickness that he has.”

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 Bone led Tennessee (25-7) with 19 points, including 17 in the first half. Admiral Schofield had 16, while Kyle Alexander, James Daniel III and Grant Williams had 12 each against the Razorbacks (23-11).

“I was just taking the game from (Friday) and not wanting to come out as flat as we did,” Bone said. “I wanted to come out aggressively and really set the tone offensively and defensively. It worked out.”

Bone, Daniel and Schofield got the Vols going in the first half, reaching double-digits as UT had its best shooting half of the season.

Tennessee made 76 percent of its shots to trump the 71.4 percent mark it had in the second half against Ole Miss on Feb. 3. UT also shot 7-for-8 from 3-point range in the first half, setting up a showdown with Kentucky and a shot at UT’s first SEC Tournament title since 1979.

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Tennessee center Kyle Alexander recaps UT”s win against Arkansas
Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

The showing Saturday was a stark turn from Friday night when Tennessee shot 33.3 percent from the field in its narrow quarterfinal win. Alexander chalked up the struggles to having almost a week off before the game, saying the Vols needed a “warm-up game” and Saturday showed the right version of their play.

“Really what we talked about coming in was our defense,” Barnes said. “We’re going to put it on our defense. We can’t do like we did (Friday night). We can’t sweep that game under the rug and say, ‘OK, we’re here.’

“We knew we couldn’t turn it over 17 times and take bad shots like we did (Friday) because Arkansas will just feast on that and we didn’t (Saturday). That had a lot to do with our offense.”

Tennessee took a resounding lead early behind its offense and Bone. The Nashville native made three 3-pointers and all seven of his field goals in a striking performance, answering the call that his teammates issued to drive the ball and use his speed. He also knocked down four field goals late in the shot clock, including all three 3-pointers.

“Shots were falling,” Bone said. “They started helping off on me and leaving other people open. I started making the right pass. Other people started hitting shots. … We were just playing really good offense as a team.”

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Tennessee junior center Kyle Alexander recaps UT’s win against Mississippi State
Mike Wilson/News Sentinel

Tennessee made 11 of its first 12 field goals, including nine in a row. Daniel made three 3-pointers, as the Vols seemingly couldn’t miss a night after they struggled to score.

Tennessee also played strong defense early, tallying five first-half steals and six first-half blocks. But as Arkansas did in the first meeting this year, the Razorbacks came back in the second half with an 8-0 run to cut Tennessee’s lead to 53-42. Lamonte Turner stopped the run with a corner 3-pointer, setting UT back on track for its first win against Arkansas in Barnes’ tenure.

Arkansas trimmed the lead to 11 again with 12:03 to play, but Williams converted a tough three-point play and Bone got crafty in transition to extend it back to 16. Turner again hit from three to make the lead 17 and Tennessee had the win secured for a bid to try and win its second championship this season.

“I would just be so happy for these guys,” Alexander said. “It’s just another trophy and another reward for all the work we’ve put in this offseason.”

John Fulkerson returns

Barnes reached into the bench early Saturday for John Fulkerson, the redshirt freshman forward who has played only one minute in the past four games. He responded, posting up and scoring as part of Tennessee’s nine straight field goals. Then he came up with a physical steal that led to a Daniel 3-pointer.

“I’m always ready and on edge and ready to give to my team when my number is called,” Fulkerson said.

The Kingsport native played nine minutes, scoring two points.

Up next

Tennessee faces No. 4 Kentucky at 1 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN) for the SEC Tournament championship. The Vols swept the regular-season series against Kentucky for the first time since 1999.

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