Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) grabs a rebound Friday against Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) as Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) looks on during theNCAA basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
NASHVILLE — It's going to be a long and nervy 48 hours for the Tennessee basketball program.
The Volunteers' NCAA tournament hopes are now in the hands of the selection committee.
In a matchup of bubble teams, Alabama won the rubber match against the Vols with a 58-48 win in the SEC tournament quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena on Friday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide advance to play Florida in Saturday's semifinals, while Tennessee must wait and hope its records against the RPI's top 50 (4-4) and top 100 (9-10) and solid strength of schedule numbers are enough to warrant an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Levi Randolph led the Tide with 15 points, Trevor Releford added 14 points and Alabama's defense made it a difficult day for Tennessee guards Trae Golden and Jordan McRae.
After four early assists, Golden finished with just two points and five assists on 1-of-7 shooting, and McRae struggled most of the afternoon, shooting 3-of-13 and scoring nine points, nearly seven under his season average.
Tennessee made just five of 23 3-point attempts and missed half of their 14 free throws.
A first fast five minutes exemplified the sense of urgency from two teams fighting for their postseason lives. Alabama made its first three shots of the game and made four of its six 3s in the first half. Tennessee made six of its first seven field-goal attempts and scored 10 of its first 14 points in the paint.
After a hot start, the Vols began settling for 3-point shots and made just three of 13 attempts before halftime. Tennessee finished just 5-of-20 in the half's final 14-plus minutes. A 9-0 run gave the Vols their largest lead of the game at 13-8, but Alabama got back in the game with a 9-3 spurt.
Releford's 3 from the left wing with time winding down gave the Tide a 31-27 halftime lead.
Alabama's 11-5 spurt early in the second half pushed its lead to 44-38, and after Jordan McRae's 3-pointer, the Tide scored six straight points for its largest lead (50-41) at the 8:24 mark prior to Tennessee's late charge.
The Vols twice had possession down just four points, but Levi Randolph banked in a fallaway shot in the lane to restore the lead to six. Rodney Cooper's free throws with 3:07 remaining made it 54-46, and Alabama closed out the game from there.
The NCAA tournament field is announced at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...