NASHVILLE — Dai-Jon Parker scored 12 to help Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 64-48 in the SEC tournament quarterfinals Friday, putting a serious dent in the Wildcats' hopes of having a chance to defend their national title.
The game was a rematch of last year's SEC final.
No. 2-seeded Kentucky (21-11) went in as a bubble team, projected by some analysts as an NCAA Tournament play-in candidate after coach John Calipari sent six players to the NBA last year and tried reloading again. But his top recruit, Nerlens Noel, is out with a torn ACL, and his team put up a season low in points against the 10 seed Commodores (16-16).
Calipari said his team "laid an egg" and Vanderbilt played well. "The good news is everyone seems to be losing," he said. "I just hope we're the best of the bad right now."
Kevin Bright added 11 points for Vanderbilt, which made 8 of 17 3-pointers.
The Commodores also lost their top six players from the team that won the school's first tournament title in 61 years (three of the players went to the NBA). Their growing pains have been such that winning is the only way to keep playing now.
"It's been a long time since I've been as proud of a team as I am this team here," said coach Kevin Stallings, whose team in the semis faces Mississippi, a 64-62 winner over Missouri.
"That's the first time we've been .500 in about five months. I wish it was better than that, but I'm very proud of them."
Alabama wins game of bubble teams
NASHVILLE — Alabama defeated Tennessee 58-48 in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, most likely knocking the Volunteers out of contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament while keeping its hopes alive.
The No. 4-seeded Crimson Tide earned the right to play top-seeded Florida in the semifinals today. Alabama (21-11) is among the last four teams projected by many analysts to be left out of the NCAA field. But coach Anthony Grant said that's not his primary concern.
"We play Florida for a chance to play for an SEC championship," he said. "And that's all that really matters."
No. 5-seeded Tennessee (20-12) led by five in the first half before Alabama took a 31-27 lead. And every time the Vols got close, the Tide didn't fold. Stymied by the Tide's zone defense, the Vols shot 18-of-56 from the field (32.1 percent) and 21 percent from 3-point range.
"We just didn't make the shots when we needed them," coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Leading by six, Alabama hit 4 of 6 free throws over the final 3:06. Levi Randolph and Trevor Releford led the Tide with a 29 combined points.
Mississippi 64, Missouri 62: Derrick Millinghaus made a tying 3-pointer with 29.2 seconds left, then a floater with 1.1 left for the No. 3-seeded Rebels (24-8). After the 3-pointer, the No. 6-seeded Tigers (23-10) threw away the inbounds pass.
Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.