JOE BIDDLE: Pigs fly as Vols season and second half rally comes up short

SEC tournament 2015

The Tennessee Volunteers dug themselves a deep and early grave in the SEC Tournament Friday night and a second half surge was too little, too late.

The gang that couldn’t shoot straight hit only 4 of their 25 first half shots, giving Arkansas a 45-25 lead that held up wire to wire.

“To their credit they were very aggressive and forced some turnovers,’’ Tyndall said of Arkansas. “We talked a ton the last 24 hours as a team, the biggest key would be to take care of the basketball and not turn it over against their pressure.

“We started the game on our heels.’’

The 80-72 win sends the Razorbacks into Saturday’s semifinal game against Friday’s nightcap between Georgia and South Carolina.

It has been obvious the Vols lack enough pieces to be a NCAA Tournament team. They don’t have a true post player. Senior Josh Richardson had to play point guard, which clearly he is not. But there was no other choice.

“Think about it,’’ Tyndall said. “We have two skinny freshmen up front, a 6-7 post-player who is really a 3-4 and a 6-4 post-player who is really a wing player. We get 20 offensive rebounds against that team. That’s grit and that’s effort. And that’s competing for 40 minutes.’’

Tyndall did the most with what he inherited. He threw this team together with no time to spare. He is known as a solid recruiter and that is the key for this program going forward.

One item could change the entire complexion and that is the NCAA investigation of Southern Miss, the team Tyndall coached before moving to Tennessee.

The NCAA hasn’t shown its cards and works in mysterious ways and on its time clock.

A number of Southern Miss assistants are no longer there and some players have also parted ways with the program. Those are troubling signs, but there have been no official or unofficial charges against Tyndall.

In the meantime, he will concentrate on strengthening his program on the Hill.

The current players never gave up, never quit giving their all throughout the season. That is a solid starting block to rebuild with.

“We ended up playing 32 games,’’ Tyndall said. “I think we played as hard as you can probably play for 31 and a half. The only game I keep going back to is the first half at home against LSU. Other than that, these kids gave me everything they have.’’

Just as they rallied in the second half to oust Vanderbilt Thursday night, they bounced back against Arkansas, a 25-7 team that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“Shout out to Tennessee,’’ said Arkansas guard Michael Qualls. “They came to play. They didn’t give up. They came, they gave us their best shot.’’

You can say the Vols season was average, as they finished 16-16 in Tyndall’s first season.

Alas, the Vols were ham-strung by poor shooting much of the season. But it all came back to them missing 21 of their first 25 shots Friday night.

They were down 20 points at intermission but made a run at the Hogs, but to no avail.

Tyndall didn’t see it coming.

“We really struggled at the offensive end of the floor, where we just don’t have that true post player to throw it to and alleviate some pressure from our perimeter,’’ he said.

“But the biggest thing were the turnovers. That’s what bothered me the most. We weren’t aggressive probably the first 10 minutes of the half. We settled for jump shots.’’

They hit 16 of 36 shots in the second half and made a run at the Hogs.

“We collected our thoughts a little bit and played with a lot more confidence,’’ Tyndall said.

“But that first half was rough, no question about it.’’

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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