ATLANTA — Freshman Tobias Harris scored 20 points and Tennessee recovered after blowing a 16-point lead to beat Arkansas 74-68 on Thursday night in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Tennessee (19-13) bolstered its NCAA Tournament case after losing six of its last nine games in the regular season.
The Vols led by 16 at 68-52 before Arkansas (18-13) made things interesting with a 16-0 run to pull even at 68-68 with 2:08 remaining.
Brian Williams scored for Tennessee with 54 seconds remaining to end the Razorbacks' run. The Vols then forced a turnover by Julysses Nobles, and Harris hit two free throws after he was fouled by Nobles.
Rotnei Clarke had 18 points for Arkansas. Delvon Johnson had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Melvin Goins had 12 points for the Vols, including two free throws in the final seconds to ice the game.
The Vols' NCAA Tournament hopes may have been on the line, but they focused on revenge as their motivation.
"We owe them one!" Tennessee players yelled during their on-court huddle in the final seconds before the game.
The Razorbacks opened their SEC schedule with a 68-65 home win over Tennessee on Jan. 8. Vols Coach Bruce Pearl was serving an eight-game SEC suspension for lying to investigators in an NCAA case.
Williams, a 6-foot-10 senior and Tennessee's leading rebounder who had been out with a sore back, had nine points and eight rebounds. He made his first three-pointer of the season.
Williams left with 4:15 remaining after he was poked in his right eye. He returned with 1:10 remaining and scored 16 seconds later to end the Razorbacks' 16-0 run.
Georgia 69, Auburn 51: Trey Thompkins, finally healthy after a series of nagging injuries, scored 22 points to lead Georgia in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Thompkins, a 6-foot-10 junior, is ranked among the SEC leaders with his averages of 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds despite battling ankle, shin and toe injuries. He said Wednesday he is finally at full speed for the postseason. He had 10 rebounds to help support his claim.
"I feel like I'm myself again," said the 6-foot-10 junior, who has battled ankle, shin and toe injuries this season.
Georgia (21-10), considered by some to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble, has a chance to again bolster its NCAA hopes when it faces Alabama, the Western Division's No. 1 seed, in Friday's SEC quarterfinals.
"Have we had our best performance? I don't know," Georgia Coach Mark Fox said. "I do think that there's more good plays in this group, and hopefully they will happen at the same time."
Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said "there's no question" Georgia belongs in the NCAA field, thanks in part to its deep front line.
"I don't know of another team, maybe in our league or across the country, that can match up with them physically across the front line," Barbee said. "It seems like they go to the bench and there's another 6-foot-9 guy that's about 260 (pounds) that they bring off the bench. But they're not just big, they're skilled. ... They're all men out there."
Chris Denson, a freshman, led Auburn (11-20) with a career-high 21 points. He was Auburn's only scorer in double figures.
Mississippi 66, South Carolina 55: Chris Warren scored 20 points and Mississippi won a game of spurts, pulling away to the opening-round win.
The final run was the decisive one for the Rebels (20-12), who came into Atlanta knowing their only shot at the NCAAs was probably to win four games in four days. After South Carolina (14-16) closed to 50-45 with 9½ minutes to go, Ole Miss put it away with an 11-1 run.
The Rebels advanced to face No. 15 Kentucky in the quarterfinals Friday with their first win in the tournament since 2007.
Ole Miss hasn't won back-to-back games in the tourney since 2001.
South Carolina, held to 30 percent shooting, was led by Ramon Galloway with 17 points.
Vanderbilt 62, LSU 50: SEC leading scorer John Jenkins didn't play in Vanderbilt's opening game because of an ailing foot.
School spokesman Andy Boggs says Jenkins tweaked his left foot in the regular-season finale against Florida and could have played if needed.