KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Cuonzo Martin's endorsement of his team's NCAA tournament resume was anything but subtle.

Tennessee clinched a bye in the first round of the SEC tournament with a 68-61 win against Vanderbilt on Saturday, ending a regular season that included early losses to Oakland and Austin Peay and finished with the Vols winning eight of their final nine.

The turnaround could end up with Tennessee (18-13, 10-6 SEC) as the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament if No. 1 Kentucky beats Florida on Sunday.

"Are we an NCAA tournament team? Yes," said Martin, the Vols' first-year coach. "Is there work to be done? I don't know. I'm not on the committee. We've got to continue to win ballgames."

Vanderbilt (21-10, 10-6) had locked up a bye in the SEC tournament before Saturday's game.

The Vols, whose RPI is 81st according to, should get a boost from beating the Commodores, who are 19th in the latest RPI.

"Once I took over the program, until I'm in the casket, I don't know, whatever the case may be ... I said one day we'd be the last team standing," Martin said. "I meant that when I said it."

Tennessee overcame its 18.8 percent shooting (3 of 16) from 3-point range by making 12 of 15 free throws down the stretch. Senior Cameron Tatum led the Vols with 18 points and hit five of those free throws in front of an announced crowd of 22,172.

"This is something I'll remember for the rest of my life, my last game in Thompson-Boling Arena," Tatum said. "The crowd was rocking. We've got to give a shout-out to them. ... The last time we had 22,000 fans was the glory days of C-Lo (former Vol Chris Lofton)."

Freshman Jarnell Stokes overcame flu-like symptoms to finish with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Tennessee outrebounded Vanderbilt 40-30.

"I think the story of the game is they were more physical," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They were just physically tougher than we were at every spot. You can't win if you get out-physicaled at every spot. Maybe not one spot. Maybe we had one spot that neutralized, but that would've been it. Congratulations to them. They played harder and tougher than we did."

John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, did his best to keep Vanderbilt in the game, scoring eight of his team-high 18 points in the final 11 minutes.

The Vols threatened to put the game out of reach on several occasions - three times pushing their lead to nine - but Jenkins consistently scrapped out an answer on an off-shooting night for the junior.

Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, who each shoot better than 45 percent from 3-point range, combined to shoot 4 of 16 from that distance on the night.

"I had to work for looks, and the ones I did have were tough," Jenkins said. "They did a good job."

The duo scored consecutive baskets to pull the Commodores within 56-53, but Tatum made four straight free throws to give Tennessee a late cushion.

Trae Golden added 15 and Jeronne Maymon 12 for Tennessee.

The Vols cut down significantly on the season-high 25 turnovers that contributed to the Commodores' 65-47 win on Jan. 24. Tennessee finished with just 10 on Saturday.

Tennessee made only eight field goals in the second half but made 79.3 percent of its free throws (23 of 29), compared to its season average of 69.8 percent.

The Vols led early, but Jenkins hit three 3-pointers and Brad Tinsley added another in a 12-1 run that put Vanderbilt on top 21-15. Tennessee countered with a 13-2 run of its own and led 30-29 at halftime.

"We're not the same team at all from the beginning of the season till now," Golden said, "but to say that we made such growth in such a small period of time, it just, I think the sky is the limit."