NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Erik Murphy scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds to help the 13th-ranked Florida Gators take the first step Friday toward trying to add a Southeastern Conference Tournament title to their regular season championship by beating Louisiana State 80-58.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive presented Florida coach Billy Donovan with the regular season trophy before tipoff. Then the Gators (25-6) started working toward their first tournament title since 2007 when they wrapped up a three-peat.
Scottie Wilbekin added 16 points, matching his career-best with four 3-pointers.
Ninth-seeded LSU (19-12)
tried to keep up with the rested Gators but looked a step slow with too many shots just short a day after beating Georgia to advance.
Charles Carmouche led the Tigers with 14 points.
Levi Randolph scored 15 points as No. 4 seed Alabama (21-11) defeated No. 5 seed Tennessee (20-12) in a quarterfinal between two teams seeking to improve their postseason credentials.
Trevor Releford added 14 points for Alabama.
Josh Richardson scored 16 points for Tennessee, which lost for only the second time in its past 11 games. Jarnell Stokes added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Tennessee and Alabama both entered this week as NCAA Tournament bubble teams.
VANDERBILT 64, KENTUCKY 48
Dai-Jon Parker scored 12 points, and Vanderbilt (16-16)
beat Kentucky in a rematch of last year’s tournament championship game and put a serious dent in the Wildcats’ hopes of at least having a chance to defend their national title.
Kentucky (21-11) came in as a bubble team projected possibly as a play-in candidate.
Archie Goodwin led the Wildcats with 12 points.
MISSISSIPPI 64, MISSOURI 62
Derrick Millinghaus made a driving basket with 1.1 seconds left as No. 3 seed Mississippi (24-8) rallied from a 14-point, second-half deficit to beat Missouri (22-10) in the quarterfinals.
The Rebels also boosted their chances of earning their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002.
Alex Oriakhi had 17 points for Missouri.