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The Bulldogs turned it right back when Dee Bost took the inbound pass and dribbled out of bounds, giving Tennessee another chance that the Vols squandered when Stewart tipped an inbound pass that landed in Turner's hands.
Tennessee immediately fouled the sophomore guard, who made both free throws, setting the stage for a celebration.
The Bulldogs piled onto Stewart and Turner in front of the Tennessee bench, then slipped on championship shirts and hats and started dancing all over the court. Beckham grabbed the SEC placard, while Brian Johnson directed the pep band through a chorus of the school fight song.
Mississippi State accepted the championship trophy, landed Varnado and Stewart on the all-tournament team, and cut down the nets in the half-empty St. Pete Times Forum, which drew a crowd of just 10,093 for the final.
"That last 22 seconds, I can promise you we didn't lose no TV viewers," Stansbury said. "We made it interesting."
Overall, the tournament drew 132,181 for six sessions over four days -- the lowest attendance for the league's showcase event since 1991, when it was played in Nashville, Tenn., and without perennial SEC powerhouse Kentucky, which was on probation.
For Tennessee, it was more postseason disappointment under Pearl, who's 3-3 in the SEC tournament. The Vols hadn't been in the SEC final since 1991 and last won it all in 1979.
"One of the toughest things about this season has been ... I continue to hear how people are disappointed," Pearl said.
"Well, we disappointed them again. At the same time, I'm proud of my basketball team for how many times we've picked ourselves up off the deck and played beautiful basketball."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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