SEC Championship Scouting Report: UK vs. Tennessee


Tennessee played Arkansas in the SEC tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 10, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Braden Ramsey

After dismantling the 9-seed Alabama Crimson Tide 86-63 in the SEC Tournament Semifinals, UK basketball (23-10, 10-8) advances to play Sunday against a familiar face: AP No. 13 ranked Tennessee (25-7, 13-5).

Four-seed UK’s dominance was led by Wenyen Gabriel, who knocked down seven three-pointers in a record-setting performance. He now holds the SEC Tournament record three-pointers by a UK player in a tournament game and the UK record for most three-point makes without a miss in a game.

The 2-seed Volunteers won over the 6-seed Arkansas Razorbacks in an equally impressive showing, as five players scored in double figures to help get an 84-66 win. Tennessee will play in their first SEC title game since 2009.

Looking to capture their 31st– and fourth straight– SEC Tournament Championship, the Cats will attempt to take down the Vols and prevent them from claiming their fifth. It would be the first SEC Tournament title for Tennessee since 1979.

Having played twice already this season, these teams have each other’s tendencies figured out and know who the ball could go to in crunch time. Here’s what you need to know about the Volunteers as tip-off approaches:

Head Coach: Rick Barnes

Barnes is in his third season as the lead man for Tennessee, and the team will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance under his tutelage this year regardless of tomorrow’s result. This season’s SEC Coach of the Year spent the previous 17 seasons at Texas, taking them to 16 NCAA Tournaments.

Record: 25-7 overall, 13-5 SEC

Regular Starters:

Grant Williams (#2, Sophomore, F, 6’7”, 241 lbs.)

Admiral Schofield (#5, Junior, F, 6’5”, 238 lbs.)

Kyle Alexander (#11, Junior, F, 6’11”, 220 lbs.)

Jordan Bone (#0, Sophomore, G, 6’3”, 176 lbs.)

Jordan Bowden (#23, Sophomore, G, 6’5”, 185 lbs.)

Anchored by SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, Tennessee greatly exceeded expectations this season through a first-place tie in the conference with Auburn. Having Second-Team All-SEC member Admiral Schofield and Co-Sixth-Man of the Year Lamonte Turner gives the Volunteers a well-rounded team on the court each night they suit up.

Previous Games vs. Kentucky

All-time, the Wildcats lead the series with Tennessee 151-71. This season, the Volunteers beat Kentucky twice, winning at Thompson-Boling Arena (76-65, Jan. 6) and escaping at Rupp (61-59, Feb. 6). Both games featured each team in the AP Top 25 rankings. Tennessee is searching for its first three-game win streak against Kentucky since 1979.

Keys to the Game

Many of the major statistics in the contests between these two teams are neck and neck, showing just how evenly matched they are.

Despite those numbers being so close, Tennessee holds the edge in most of the categories. Maintaining these advantages with their balance and shooting a higher percentage from behind the arc – just over 30 percent combined in the two matchups – should allow them to claim victory.

For the Cats to win, they need to be better from the charity stripe. While lagging in many areas against the Vols, the biggest discrepancy was in that spot. They were unable to crack 75 percent from the line in either contest, while Tennessee did in both. In a game that should come down to the final minutes, free throws could very well provide the difference.

The SEC Tournament Championship takes place tomorrow at noon, and will be broadcast on ESPN.