Coming off of their nearly 40 point win against Auburn on Wednesday night, I don’t think many people outside of Knoxville were prepared for what was going to happen Thursday night.
With 13.3 ticks left on the clock, it looked like it was all but over for Vanderbilt in the SEC Tourney. Tennessee’s Derek Reese just canned two free throws to extend the Volunteer lead to five. The Commodores refused to give up as a quick inbounds pass and toss up court to a wide open Matthew Fisher-Davis for three would only shave 4.7 off the clock. Mostella was sent to the line for Tennessee, missed the front end of a 1 and 1, but somehow managed to snag his own rebound. After being fouled again, Mostella went on to miss yet another with 4.5 to go. Luke Kornet gave an outlet to Wade Baldwin who raced down the floor just in time to get off what was a game tying layup until it was later waved off. Tennessee lives to see another day.
Following the refs announcing that the shot was waved off and that the game had concluded, Tennessee’s Armani Moore crumpled to the hardwood and took it all in. The senior 6’5 forward out of Kennesaw, Georgia was overcame with emotion after a huge win in the midst of a rough season for the Vols.
Moore told the SEC Network after the game that, “I know I’m gonna go out here and give it all that I can just for him.” That “him” is Kevin Punter Jr., Tennessee’s leading scorer and the 2nd leading scorer in the entire conference. Punter is a senior who had season-ending surgery and concluded his collegiate career on February 18th in a loss to Kentucky. Moore mentioned that, “KP is a guy that I’ve always been around and seeing how much he puts into it and puts into the gym and I know that he can’t be out here with us right now.”
Next up, Tennessee will have a date with LSU and the critically acclaimed #1 player in the country on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals at 3:25PM EST. Most people would say that the road ends here for the Volunteers, but after all, it is March, isn’t it?