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Tennessee And Kentucky Take Care Of Business With All Eyes On Auburn Tonight In Starkville

Tennessee was looking to snap a six-game losing streak in Athens on Tuesday night and to keep pressure on Auburn in the SEC standings. Turns out the Vols didn’t play their best game against the Bulldogs, but still came away with the 75-66 win, snapping that dreadful losing streak in the process.

Not much was going for Rick Barnes’ squad in the first half. The Tennessee team we’ve seen poke its ugly head numerous times this season seemed to have taken the court at Stegeman Coliseum. They missed a handful of opportunities, played bad defense and took undisciplined shots. The Vols were led by Kennedy Chandler, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James in the first twenty minutes, all scoring 8 points or more.

I don’t know if this team wasn’t feeling the energy in the fairly empty arena or just overlooked what Georgia could do against them, but they almost paid for it. If it weren’t for a fantastic night from Josiah-Jordan James, who finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds, this Tennessee team could’ve been heading back to Knoxville with a loss. Numerous times this season, the Vols have hurt themselves by going on long scoring droughts, and tonight almost bit them again. At one point in the second half, they went over five minutes without a basket.

James scored eleven points in the first six minutes of the second half, and most of the fans clad in orange inside the arena thought the Vols would run away with it. Tennessee held a 15-point lead at the 9:45 mark, but kept letting the Bulldogs find an open lane to the basket.

The Bulldogs kept biting, going on an 11-0 run late in second half, cutting it to 64-60. But thanks to John Fulkerson, who scored consecutive baskets around the rim, the lead was stretched out to 68-60 and the Vols could breathe again. Tennessee is lucky that Georgia doesn’t have the shooters that others in this conference do. Really lucky. Barnes talked about the defense postgame.

“We were very impatient on the defensive end. We had happy feet and were jumping around. Just weren’t very disciplined.”

Josiah-Jordan James summed up the win best:

“We wanted to play better, but we got the job done on the road which isn’t an easy thing to do.”

A win is a win, and now this squad must turn their attention towards a huge matchup with Arkansas on Saturday. Both teams are still fighting for a chance at the SEC regular season title, which could be at stake if Auburn were to lose at Mississippi State tonight. As long as the same Tennessee team that beat the Auburn Tigers this past weekend shows up against the Razorbacks, then we’re set for a battle in Knoxville. Even if the Tigers beat the Bulldogs tonight, conference tournament seeding is at stake, as is NCAA Tournament seeding.

But if they come out on Saturday against Arkansas playing like they did against Georgia, it won’t turn out the way Tennessee fans hope.

Kentucky Defeats Ole Miss 83-72

The Wildcats took care of business against Ole Miss on Tuesday night, which was also the last time a few players will see action at Rupp Arena. Kentucky was led by none other than Oscar Tshiebwe, who had another double-double, with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Sahvir Wheeler put up 16 points on the night as well. Big Blue fans likely enjoyed seeing TyTy Washington score 14 points, even as he battles back from that ankle injury.

Overall, this was a nice performance from Kentucky, especially since the Rebels got it close a few times. But this Wildcat team bounced back from the loss at Arkansas and will now travel to Gainesville for the regular season finale. That will be a very interesting matchup. We saw Florida upset Auburn a few weeks ago. The Wildcats shouldn’t be distracted, as they are also playing for NCAA Tournament seeding, which will be big, with only two guaranteed games left before March Madness begins.

South Carolina Defeats Missouri 73-69

The Gamecocks came out and took care of Missouri on senior night in Columbia. Jermaine Couisnard scored 17 points and had 4 rebounds for the Gamecocks, who will now travel to Auburn on Saturday to close out the regular season. Javon Pickett scored 23 points for the Tigers tonight in the loss. We have to wonder if we are seeing the final few games of the Cuonzo Martin era at Missouri, with only two guaranteed games left for the Tigers.

Florida Defeats Vanderbilt 82-78

Vanderbilt went on a 17-2 run in the second half and had Memorial Gym bouncing off the walls, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Gators Tuesday night. Even Scottie Pippen Jr. scoring 29 points wasn’t enough in the end. The Gators went on a 9-2 run in the last 1:30 to get the big win and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Florida will host Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale, and this one will be huge.

 

We’ve got a big game tonight in Starkville, with Auburn playing Mississippi State. I promise you that fans of Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas will all be watching this 9 pm ET tip at The Hump with SEC regular season championship implications on the line.

Written by Trey Wallace

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