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No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Alabama final score: Tide grind out victory over Vols, stay alive in bubble race

Alabama defeated Tennessee in a critical SEC matchup. Their tourney hopes stay alive for one more day.

USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive Friday, defeating the Tennessee Volunteers, 58-48, to advance to the SEC semifinal round.

With both teams firmly on the bubble, this had all the makings of a "win or go home" game. As such, it was closely contested for most of the first half. Alabama led most of the way, but never got a lead larger than five points. The Tide used a 7-3 run at the end of the first half to go into halftime up 31-27.

Alabama started to pull away in the second half, opening up one of their biggest leads of the game at the 9:03 mark, when they led 50-41. The Vols attempted a comeback late in the game, but they never got the deficit closer than four points.

Tennessee struggled to find the bucket all day, shooting just 32.1 percent from the field and a mere 5 of 23 on three pointers. Meanwhile, Alabama made 41.3 percent of their field goals. Levi Randolph led the Tide with 15 points, and Nick Jacobs hauled in 12 rebounds.

The loss is a blow to Tennessee's tourney hopes, but the Vols got some outside help when La Salle and Virginia both lost earlier in the day. They remain on the cusp of the bubble and will have an agonizing wait on Selection Sunday. As for the Tide, they had a lot more to gain from winning here, and staying alive in the SEC tournament is a critical step. They will face Florida in the semifinals on Saturday.

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