Each Monday we recap the previous week’s news and notes from around Tennessee Athletics. This is the place for Vol fans to catch up on any of the action they may have missed. Last week on Rocky Top, the men’s basketball team participated in the SEC Tournament and received their NCAA Tournament bid, while the Lady Vols await their seeding in the big dance.
This article was written by RTI contributor Spencer Morrell.
The Volunteers met Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon in Nashville. Tennessee maintained control of the contest throughout the first half and entered the locker room at halftime with a 31-22 advantage. The Gators managed to stay within striking distance until Florida’s Omar Payne leveled Tennessee’s John Fulkerson with two intentionally violent elbow blows. Fulkerson was helped off the floor and would miss the remainder of the SEC Tournament. Payne was whistled for a level two flagrant foul and ejected from the contest. Santiago Vescovi sank both free throws awarded, and Keon Johnson buried a jumper on the ensuing possession to give the Vols a 13-point lead.
UT played the rest of the game with a renewed sense of intensity, and Florida never seriously threatened the Vols’ lead again. Tennessee would go on to win by a score of 78-66. Vescovi led the Vols with 14 points, while Johnson scored 13. Josiah-Jordan James had 12 points, while Yves Pons and Jaden Springer both contributed 11. Pons put on a show on the defensive end of the floor, blocking a single game Tennessee record nine shots, which also tied the conference tournament record.
Tennessee met top-seeded Alabama in the semifinals of the tournament on Saturday, and again controlled the game for the entire first half. UT led 40-31 at the half and led by 15 with 17 minutes left. However, the Vols went on a five-minute scoring drought while accumulating costly turnovers. This allowed Alabama to get back into the game and eventually take the lead with 5:28 remaining.
The game would remain tight the rest of the way, with Davonte Gaines going to the free throw line with 25 seconds left with the Vols down a point. Gaines missed both free throws and Alabama would take a three-point lead. Victor Bailey Jr. then missed a three-point heave to tie the game with nine seconds left, which extinguished the Vols’ last chance at victory. UT fell to Bama 73-68. Johnson led the Vols with 20 points, and Springer scored 18.
On Selection Sunday, Tennessee was awarded with a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the Midwest Region. Tennessee is matched up with the twelfth-seeded Oregon State Beavers, the Pac-12 Tournament champions.
The Vol baseball team suffered a rugged early week loss against Charlotte on Tuesday. They could not get their bats going and left Charlotte with a 9-0 loss. However, Tennessee was able to recover well, sweeping a three-game series with UNC-Greensboro over the weekend. The Vols won 6-2 on Friday, 14-9 on Saturday, and 9-3 on Sunday afternoon. Tennessee outfielder Drew Gilbert blasted a home run and a grand slam on Sunday afternoon to secure the sweep. It was Gilbert’s second multi-home run game of the season, and he now leads the team with five home runs.
Lady Vol softball
The Lady Vols faced LSU in their first conference series of the year over the weekend. Tennessee fell short in the first game of the series by a score of 2-1, before rallying to a 4-3 victory in the second game. In the rubber match Sunday afternoon, the Lady Vols could not contain LSU’s offense. LSU would go on to win the game 11-3, and the Lady Vols would lose the series.
The men’s basketball team will face off against Oregon State on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Vols will await their seeding in the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee’s baseball team will take on ETSU Tuesday before begging their conference slate with a three-game series against Georgia over the weekend.
The softball team will battle Bellarmine twice in a double header on Tuesday, and then they will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama in a three-game series for the weekend.