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'We're an NCAA tournament team'

BATON ROUGE, La. — Tennessee staged a furious second-half rally Wednesday night, adding fuel to a regular-season-ending flurry that’s featured the Vols winning seven of their past eight games.

LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center

Tennessee (17-13, 9-6 SEC) came from 15 down to keep its hopes alive for a second-place finish in the SEC, scoring a 74-69 overtime men’s basketball victory over LSU (17-12, 7-8) before a crowd of 10,476 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“The key was heart,” said Vols coach Cuonzo Martin, who’s trying to extend UT’s string of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances to seven. “We’ve been through these situations plenty of times before, and we had the heart and mental toughness to win it.

“We got to do our job and do our part, but I think we’re an NCAA tournament team.”

Freshman Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 18 points, and Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon each added 14.

The Vols close the regular season at 4 p.m. Saturday against Vanderbilt (21-9, 10-5) at Thompson-Boling Arena. If UT beats the Commodores and Kentucky wins at Florida at noon on Sunday, the Vols will finish second in the SEC.

The top four teams in the league receive a first-round bye in the SEC tournament, which runs March 8-11 in New Orleans.

“We had to win to keep our hopes alive,” said Stokes, who was 9-of-10 shooting and had a team-high seven rebounds. “It’s the SEC, on the road ... this team has a drive.”

The Vols took their first lead in the game at 63-60 when Cameron Tatum drained a 3-pointer from the corner on the opening possession of overtime after the game ended 60-60 in regulation.

UT basketball coach Cuonzo Martin

“We drew that big three up in the second half to run that for him, and he knocked it down,” Martin said. “Cameron has put the work in, and he deserved it.”

Golden gave UT a 66-63 advantage with a three-point play with 1:27 left, and after the Tigers answered with a field goal, Tatum hit a runner in the lane to make it 68-65 with 34 seconds remaining.

LSU’s Justin Hamilton, who scored a team-high 17 points, missed a 3-pointer with 17.5 seconds left, and Golden came down with the rebound and was fouled with 16.8 seconds remaining.

Golden hit both free throws to make it 70-65, and then he proceeded to ice the game by hitting his next four in the final seconds, keeping the Tigers at arm’s length.

“Obviously after this game our emotions are high,” UT sophomore Jordan McRae said. “But we’ll keep it one game at a time and come home and get ready for Vanderbilt.”

The Vols used a 9-2 run to open the second half, cutting into a 35-24 half-time deficit; then trimming the lead to 37-35 with 16 minutes left when Stokes spun an altered hook shot off the glass and trigger an LSU timeout.

A Stokes jumper at the free-throw line tied the game at 57-57 with 3:52 left. It was the first time the game had been tied since it was 4-4 at the 17:08 mark of the first half.

LSU’s Anthony Hickey (12 points) hit a 3-pointer with 3:34 left to make it 60-57, but Maymon answered with a scoop shot in traffic and followed on the next possession with a free throw that tied the game at 60-60 with 2:16 left.

Both teams failed to score on their final possession in regulation.

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