NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee can be a tough team to watch, especially offensively.
But the Vols’ half-court defense right now is as good as it’s been under Bruce Pearl, and it’s the reason they find themselves in the SEC tournament semifinals for the third straight year.
They clamped down on Ole Miss and pulled away for a 76-65 victory and will face Kentucky on Saturday.
Making it this far in the SEC tournament is nothing to sneeze at in the realm of Tennessee basketball. Prior to the 2008 tourney, the Vols were the only team in the league that hadn’t advanced past the quarterfinal round since the league expanded in 1992.
Now they’ve done it for three straight years.
The mere fact that Tennessee has 25 wins is stunning considering where this program was back on Jan. 1 with four players facing weapons and drug charges. Leading scorer Tyler Smith ended up being kicked off the team.
It’s been Pearl's best coaching job, and he’s done it with a team that has struggled to find any offensive continuity.
The next two days won’t be a lot of fun for the Rebels (21-10). They probably needed to win Friday to have a serious shot at the NCAA tournament. Now, it looks like the NIT.
If you're looking for ugly stats, look no further than the Rebels' free-throw shooting. They were 12-of-25 from the stripe.