Yves Pons and the rest of the Tennessee Volunteers were motivated from the get-go on Saturday in the SEC Tournament semifinal matchup with Alabama. But ultimately, the Crimson Tide showed why they were the best team in the league in the regular season, and held on for a 73-68 victory.

Alabama advances to Sunday’s SEC title game for the first time since 2002 against the winner of LSU-Arkansas.

Perhaps fueled by not being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Pons led a strong first half of the Vols as they built a 40-31 lead even without John Fulkerson, who was out with a concussion after he absorbed an elbow against Florida from Omar Payne, and with Josiah-Jordan James in foul trouble. James then picked up his fourth foul with 12:05 remaining.

Pons set the tone with 2 blocks and 3 rebounds in the first half, and then added a clutch 3-pointer with 41.6 seconds remaining.

It looked to be the Vols’ day for much of the game. But then Alabama delivered a 12-0 run over less than 4 minutes as the Crimson Tide cut the deficit to 3 points with 12:31 remaining. But it was not until just over 5 minutes remaining that Alabama grabbed its first lead since very early in the game.

Alabama’s Herb Jones, who was the SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, led the come back as he chipped in 15 of his 21 points in the second half, along with 13 rebounds. Jahvon Quinerly pitched in 19 points off the bench. Keon Johnson led Tennessee with 20 points.

Both teams had significant coming into the semifinal. The Vols never trailed Friday against the Gators, and No. 6 Alabama, the SEC regular-season champ, cruised with an 85-48 winner over Mississippi State.