ATLANTA - Tennessee came up short of a Southeastern Conference double, and the Volunteers may have to do without a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
Steven Hill hit a turnaround jumper with 5.3 seconds remaining for his only points of the game and Arkansas knocked off fourth-ranked Tennessee 92-91 Saturday night in the semifinals of the SEC tournament, a serious blow to the Volunteers' chances of getting a top seed when the brackets come out.
The Razorbacks (22-10) surely locked up an NCAA bid and advanced to face either Mississippi State or Georgia in today's championship game. Tennessee (29-4) claimed its first regular-season title in 41 years, but couldn't pull off a double in the storm-plagued tournament.
The game was played before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the final two days of the tournament were moved after a tornado ripped through the Georgia Dome during the quarterfinals Friday night.
The teams went back-and-forth the entire game, the last five of 17 lead changes coming in the final 3 minutes. JuJuan Smith dumped in a layup with 23 seconds left to put Tennessee ahead 91-90, and the Vols called a 30-second timeout to set up their defense.
Trying to create something off the dribble, Gary Ervin nearly slipped to ruin Arkansas' final chance. But the guard kept his footing and worked the ball inside to Hill, a bearded, 7-foot senior who had missed his lone shot of the game. Working down low, he caught the pass along the baseline, calmly turned and sank the winning basket.
Tennessee rushed the ball upcourt and put it in the hands of its most reliable player. Chris Lofton, who hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to beat South Carolina in the quarterfinals, had another shot from beyond the arc. This time, it rimmed out.
Most of the Arkansas players jumped up and down and pumped their fists to celebrate. But Hill calmly walked toward the bench, not even smiling until he was mobbed by his teammates.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Clemson 78, No. 7 Duke 74
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Clemson's dubious basketball history has drawn chuckles for years, and the depth of its futility - try 0-53 at North Carolina - is difficult to comprehend.
Well, this Clemson team is starting to shed the image that it's a football school in a basketball league.
The Tigers stunned No. 7 Duke 78-74 Saturday to advance to their first Atlantic Coast Conference final in 46 years. Clemson had lost 22 straight games to the Blue Devils and is the only charter member of the ACC to never win the league tournament title.
Trevor Booker scored 18 points and Cliff Hammonds added 17 for the third-seeded Tigers (24-8), who hadn't beaten the Blue Devils since 1997.
Clemson pulled away in the second half to spoil a much more familiar North Carolina-Duke rematch in the championship. Instead the Tigers will get a shot at the top-ranked Tar Heels today, the first time they'll play on the final day of this tradition-packed event since they lost to a Wake Forest team that included Billy Packer in 1962.
'I didn't know that,' said coach Oliver Purnell, in his fifth year at Clemson. 'I knew it was a long time ago and I knew we'd maybe only been in it once and never won it.
'I don't spend a lot of time with streaks with these young guys and that kind of thing,' he added. It's this year's team. ... I think those weights are too heavy and insignificant.'
The athletic Tigers, a lock to make their first NCAA tournament in 10 years, exploited Duke's weakness inside when it mattered.
Rugged James Mays, who scored 16 points, had two three-point plays in an 11-4 run that snapped a 56-all tie.
Second-seeded Duke (27-5) cut the lead to 71-69 on Greg Paulus' 3-pointer with 48 seconds left. But then Clemson, a 63-percent free throw shooting team, made 3-of-4 from the line.
'If they hit their free throws, they're as good as anybody,' Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
K.C. Rivers' transition dunk after DeMarcus Nelson turned the ball over in the closing seconds iced it, setting off a wild celebration for the Tigers, who had been 14-54 in the ACC tournament before beating Boston College on Friday.
Clemson's Sam Perry ripped off his jersey as the final horn sounded and ran up and hugged the Clemson mascot. Clemson's fans milled around in the arena, almost unsure of what to do and perhaps preparing to extend their hotel reservations.