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LSU Ends Tennessee's SEC Tournament Run 84-75

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The Vols battled LSU all day but couldn't overcome a poor stretch in the final five minutes. But this run and the players who fueled it give cause for optimism for the immediate future.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When the Vols beat LSU by 16 points in Knoxville in the first game without Kevin Punter, the Tigers treated Armani Moore like a power forward and he ate them alive.  Today the Tigers treated Armani Moore like the point guard he became for this team down the stretch, and it worked:  Tennessee's senior leader scored his only basket in the final minute with the game out of reach, finishing with six points, six rebounds, eight assists, six turnovers, and four fouls which kept him out of the flow for much of the game.

It was a tough night for Tennessee's heart and soul, but it was really encouraging to see the Vols continue to fight so hard and so well without him.  Tennessee rallied via a 1-3-1 zone and 11 of 14 at the free throw line to take a one point lead at halftime, then battled the Tigers throughout the second half.  Admiral Schofield hit a free throw to give the Vols a one point lead with 6:30 to play, then knocked down a jumper after a Tim Quarterman three to tie the game with 5:46 to go.

The Tigers built a four point lead from there, but it was the sequence that followed that really took the wind from Tennessee's three day sails.  Robert Hubbs was called for a push-off that drew the ire of everyone's Twitter feed, negating a bucket that would have pulled the Vols within two with four minutes to play.  On the other end of the floor, Detrick Mostella fouled Antonio Blakeney while shooting a three with two on the shot clock.  He hit all three free throws to put LSU up seven at the under four media timeout, and when Robert Hubbs missed two free throws on the other end, LSU buried a three and the game was effectively over.

It was a hard end for a three day journey featuring a record-setting blowout of Bruce Pearl and Auburn, a stunning win over our in-state rivals, and an opportunity to advance again today the Vols just couldn't pull off.  Ben Simmons sat most of the first half with two fouls, finishing with 15 points and 8 rebounds.  It was Blakeney who really hurt the Vols, going 9 of 9 at the free throw line, and Quarterman who went 3 of 7 from the arc with 7 assists.

The best news for Tennessee, other than the run itself?  The Vols were led in scoring by Robert Hubbs and Detrick Mostella.

Mostella was a revelation in these three days, going from the doghouse to the spotlight with far more than just three point shooting.  He took charges, he made defensive plays, and he shows no fear of the ball or the moment, even if he missed two front ends against Vanderbilt in the final seconds (something to work on!).  Hubbs is a former five star looking at his senior season, but was 8 of 11 from the floor today against one of the most talented teams in the country.  And if Tennessee can improve its post production with Kyle Alexander, it will allow them to use Hubbs in some different ways next season.  Those two were the heart of UT's production today, and if Rick Barnes is going to build instead of rebuild next season, it will be because those two lead the way.

So we leave Nashville with not just memories, but hope.  For the second straight year the Vols used the SEC Tournament to write a better ending to a frustrating season.  And this run specifically gives some encouragement that this team might have a chance to improve next season and not just when this coaching staff has a chance to recruit multiple years in a row.

We loved this run and this effort.  Great job, Vols.