March 15, 2008
ATLANTA (cbssportsline.com/AP) --Tennessee came up short of a Southeastern Conference double, and the Volunteers may have to do without a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
Steven Hill hit a turnaround jumper with 5.3 seconds remaining for his only points of the game and Arkansas knocked off fourth-ranked Tennessee 92-91 Saturday night in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, a serious blow to the Volunteers' chances of getting a top seed when the brackets come out.
The Razorbacks (22-10) surely locked up an NCAA bid and advanced to face either Mississippi State or Georgia in Sunday's championship game. Tennessee (29-4) claimed its first regular-season title in 41 years, but couldn't pull off a double in the storm-plagued tournament.
The game was played before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the final two days of the tournament were moved after a tornado ripped through the Georgia Dome during the quarterfinals Friday night.
The teams went back-and-forth the entire game, the last five of 17 lead changes coming in the final 3 minutes. JuJuan Smith dumped in a layup with 23 seconds left to put Tennessee ahead 91-90, and the Vols called a 30-second timeout to set up their defense.
Trying to create something off the dribble, Gary Ervin nearly slipped to ruin Arkansas' final chance. But the guard kept his footing and worked the ball inside to Hill, a bearded, 7-foot senior who had missed his lone shot of the game. Working down low, he caught the pass along the baseline, calmly turned and sank the winning basket.
Tennessee rushed the ball upcourt and put it in the hands of its most reliable player. Chris Lofton, who hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to beat South Carolina in the quarterfinals, had another shot from beyond the arc. This time, it rimmed out.
Most of the Arkansas players jumped up and down and pumped their fists to celebrate. But Hill calmly walked toward the bench, not even smiling until he was mobbed by his teammates.
Charles Thomas scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Razorbacks, who never led by more than three. Patrick Beverley added 17 points and Darian Townes 16.
Arkansas did its best work on the boards, with a 34-22 rebounding edge that included 13 at the offensive end. That led to a 14-6 edge in second-chance points. The Razorbacks also had a 44-34 scoring edge in the lane.
Lofton scored 25 points, hitting 5-of-9 from 3-point range but missing the one that counted most. Tyler Smith had 24 points and JaJuan Smith 18.
Be sure to tune into Volunteer TV News and Sports Overtime at 11 p.m. for highlites and postgame reaction.
The Associated Press News Service