No. 18 Tennessee, No. 21 LSU meet in key early season SEC game

NCAA Men's Basketball

LSU held on to beat Kentucky for its first SEC win.

Tennessee came from behind to defeat Ole Miss in overtime for its first SEC win.

Now the No. 21 Tigers (13-1, 1-1) and the No. 18 Volunteers (10-3, 1-1) will meet Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU had a nine-point lead with 2:35 remaining, but No. 16 Kentucky got within a point and had the ball in the final minute for the chance to take the lead. But Xavier Pinson made consecutive steals which led to LSU baskets to complete a 65-60 victory.

“We know teams are going to make a run,” Pinson said. “We know that things are going to happen throughout the game in most scenarios in the SEC, so we’re really just ready for whatever, try to bounce back as quick as possible.”

The Tigers bounced back from their first loss of the season in their SEC opener at Auburn six days earlier.

“It was a wild finish,” LSU forward Tari Eason said. “Obviously, it wasn’t exactly the way we drew it up, but you know at the end of the day a win is a win. That’s what we wanted and that’s what we came out with.”

LSU held the Wildcats to 10 points during the final 13 minutes of the game to overcome a nine-point deficit. Even with the frantic final two minutes, the Tigers finished the game with a 24-10 run.

“We have to be a little bit more disciplined with things,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We were able to overcome some of our deficiencies because we played so hard. You have to protect your home court in SEC play, and we were able to do that.”

They’ll try to do it again against Tennessee, which made three consecutive 3-pointers to tie Ole Miss late in regulation, then grabbed its first lead of the night in overtime and beat the Rebels 66-60 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers forced 27 Ole Miss turnovers, the third game this season in which they forced at least 25 turnovers. They made 17 steals, their most since they had 21 against North Carolina A&T in 2009 and their most against an SEC opponent since they had 18 against Alabama in 2007.

“Every night, you’ve got to go into it like it’s a possession game,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s never going to be easy, and if it is, it’s a rarity.”

The Vols welcomed back two starters — John Fulkerson and Kennedy Chandler — who missed a 73-68 loss as No. 19 Alabama in the SEC opener a week earlier because of COVID protocols.

The Vols missed their first 10 shots from the floor, made their first field goal with 12:24 left in the first half and trailed 21-19 at halftime.

Tennessee trailed by as many as 12 points before Santiago Vescovi led the comeback. He scored 15 of his team-high 17 points after halftime.

“He’s in elite shape,” Barnes said of Vescovi. “There at the end, he was really good. He plays hard. We kept telling him, ‘You’ve got to shoot the ball.'”

–Field Level Media

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