TAMPA, FL. – Tennessee scored the first 14 points and never looked back in winning its first SEC tournament title since 1979.
Three-point shooting proficiency underscored an overall efficient game by the Volunteers, who led by as many 18 in defeating Texas A&M, 65-50, at Amalie Arena on Sunday.
At one point during the second half, Rick Barnes’ team was 11-for-22 beyond the arc before finishing 12-for-28.
Conversely, A&M missed all nine of its three-point attempts in the first half and finished 4-for-19.
“This time of year everybody wants to win and keep winning,” said Barnes, whose team improved to 26-7. “We are like all teams with ups and down, but our guys have chemistry. They put their own goals aside and pulled for each other and played for each other.”
Tennessee junior guard Santiago Vescovi, a first-team All-SEC selection, who was 4-for-9 on three-point attempts Sunday, had a game-high 17 points.
Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler was named the tournament’s most valuable player after recording 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds. He had 11 points and six assists in Friday’s quarterfinal against Mississippi State and followed that effort with 19 points in Saturday’s semifinal victory over Kentucky.
Tennessee, which had a 29-20 lead at the half, was the tourney’s No. 2 seed and entered the week tied for ninth in the AP poll, defeated Bulldogs and Wildcats en route to the championship game.
Texas A&M (23-12) entered as the No. 8 seed and put on an impressive show that began with Thursday’s overtime win against Florida in what was essentially a road game for the Aggies.
Likewise, in front of a large and loud Auburn crowd on Friday, Buzz Williams’ team knocked off the Tigers. The Aggies then took down Arkansas in Saturday’s semifinal.
The second SEC tournament to be played in Tampa, and first since 2009, attracted 100,076 to the five-day, 13-game event.