My attention has been a bit distracted this week by a certain quadrennial sporting event, so I've only had about half an eye on SEC basketball. Don't you worry though. I'm sure that it won't be a problem.
South Carolina (65) - Vanderbilt (59) - 2/13/14
The Gamecocks picked up their second SEC win by scoring high on their second run. Er, make that second chances.
The team story stops there mostly. The Gamecocks played a very nice defensive game, holding Vanderbilt to 1.001 points per possession, just missing the fourth time in their 11 SEC games they kept an opponent under one point per possession. With Carolina also scoring over one point per possession - and now having done so in 7 of their 11 SEC contests - it was really just a matter of time before they found a way to match up a solid offensive performance with a solid defensive one to produce a victory.
USC used a late 14-3 run to turn a close game into a home win thanks to a bevy of offensive rebounds and second chance points. The Gamecocks led 44-42 midway through the second half before holding the 'Dores to just a single made basket for a 10 minute span. Vandy, who looked sluggish from the start of Thursday's delayed tip-off, didn't have the horses to mount a comeback from there.
No highlights for this one. It's not even available on ESPN3, so I guess you're out of luck if you wanted to watch this game. Sorry.
Missouri (86) - Arkansas (85)
Mizzou withstood a furious tenth end rally from Arkansas. Or was that tenth round? Or maybe last-minute? Yeah, probably that last one.
Arkansas Fight discovered that anthracite uniforms were not a road game cure-all. I could have told them that. You don't come to the home of #ANTHRACITE and try to beat them at their own game.
In the end, it's just another blown opportunity for Arkansas. The Hogs have had five games this season come down to plays at the last second, and are now 2-3 in those games. And that doesn't take into account playing tough against Tennessee or the first Missouri game. This team has had chances, they've just only converted them against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. They're running out of opportunities to change that narrative.
02/13/2014 Arkansas vs Missouri Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Vanderbilt (57) - Texas A&M (54) (OT) - 2/15/14
The 'Dores won in a long boring slog, not unlike a 50 km cross country race on soft snow.
Anchor of Gold has not put up a recap yet. Here's their game thread.
MBB Highlights: Vanderbilt 57, Texas A&M 54 (OT) (2/15/14) (via vucommodores)
Auburn (92) - Mississippi State (82)
Auburn won a wild race in which 6 players were penalized for obstruction. What's that? Okay, apparently the term is "fouled out."
...As has For Whom the Cowbell tolls. The priorities are pretty clear for the blogs whose teams are languishing near the bottom of the standings.
Auburn Basketball Highlights vs. Mississippi State (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)
Missouri (75) - Tennessee (70)
Mizzou gutted out a win they absolutely needed if they want to get to the
medal round tournament.
I certainly don't speak for every Tennessee fan, and I'm an idiot optimist who holds on to hope with everything he has. I was one of the last ones off the Dooleywagon. So here's the position fans like me find ourselves in: you feel like Cuonzo hasn't done enough to prove he's the best choice going forward, especially with no tangible improvement 25 games into this season and a huge void in the roster coming next season. But you also believe that Dave Hart isn't going to fire a head coach who makes the NCAA Tournament, and if the Vols make the NCAA Tournament you want them to win. It's a very frustrating place to be in, and that's just one particular mindset. There are several other mindsets that have already abandoned the hope that Cuonzo might be able to still move this program forward. Behind the voices that scream for Bruce Pearl are more reasonable voices that still speak for change.
02/15/2014 Tennessee vs Missouri Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Georgia (61) - Ole Miss (60)
A controversial judging decision opened the door for Georgia to pick up an upset. The decision will stand despite a protest from the Mississippi delegation.
Okay, it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a "sellout" given that attendance was boosted by the athletic department's decision to allow students in for free with a student ID. But so what? This is Georgia basketball, and butts in the seats, even butts whose wallets are no lighter for their attendance, are not a given. At the end of the evening there was an actual, live basketball crowd which was invested in the outcome. They saw the Hoop Hounds trail by 11 at one point during the first half before narrowing the gap to 28-23 at intermission.
Ole Miss takes on No. 14 Kentucky and No. 3 Florida next week, and must win one, if not both, to pull back onto the bubble. Let's be honest, though: that probably won't happen, and barring another out-of-nowhere SEC Tournament run, this squad is likely NIT-bound.
No highlights that I can find. Judge the validity of the deciding foul call for yourself on the ESPN3 replay.
South Carolina (67) - Alabama (66)
SC edged the Tide out of the medals by a tenth of a second. Point. I meant to say a point.
In a one-point game, everything matters. The Gamecocks and Tide played roughly to a draw when it came to extra shots created (through either rebounding or turnovers), as Carolina's one extra offensive rebound was offset by its three additional turnovers. South Carolina did a great job of making the most of the limited opportunities they did get from the line by shooting 80% from the stripe, and ultimately out-shot the Tide from the inside (an area the Gamecocks have seldom found a critical advantage), going 18-34 from 2 against Alabama's 11-28 effort. It was an event effort as every Gamecock with multiple attempts from 2 shot between 33-71% - no one dominated (well, maybe Thornwell) - but no one put up one of those 1-7 shooting performances that can submarine the entire effort.
Alabama has found many ways to lose this year, and today's loss might just be the most unusual one yet. After playing an absolutely terrible first half, and being behind 28-19, the Tide staged a furious comeback, only to end up with a possible winning three-point shot by Trevor Releford stuck between the rim and the backboard. 'Bama ended up on the wrong end of a 67-66 game against the last place South Carolina Gamecocks. The final score continued the Tide's problem of not being able to win when the opposition scores 65 or more points. If South Carolina had only scored 65 today, Alabama would have won. The team dropped to 2-14 in that scenario. Alabama is now 10-15 overall, 4-8 in the SEC and 0-11 away from Coleman Coliseum. South Carolina is 10-15 and 3-9 in the SEC.
I can't find a highlight package. Here's the ESPN3 replay.
Arkansas (81) - LSU (70)
The Hogs pulled away at the end of their run, leaving the Tigers eating their snow.
The team has certainly been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last few games, despite the one-point loss at Missouri. The re-emergence of Qualls and Harris has a lot to do with that. Arkansas desperately needs other players to step up and help the core of Madden/Clarke/Portis, and both Qualls and Harris have the ability to do that. Their 21 and eight combined points and rebounds is what pushed Arkansas over the top today, not to mention the huge surge at the beginning from Qualls' early threes and the momentum swing from Harris' dunk.
Remember HHKB Chris's post, in which And the Valley Shook declared LSU's season dead? They meant it. Baseball season!
Arkansas Men's Basketball: LSU Highlights 2-15-14 (via arkrazorbacks)
Florida (69) - Kentucky (59)
This was apparently a pretty good game, but I haven't been able to watch it, because NBC is saving it for prime time tonight.
Florida defeated Kentucky, 69-59, for the program's first win at Rupp Arena since 2007. That year, Florida won the national championship.
Kentucky just isn't good enough, says A Sea of Blue. (I can think of a team that would love to be as good as Kentucky. Just saying.)
The Wildcats, as a team, just aren't good enough to win at the top tier right now, but it's not all negative; They are still pretty good. I'm just going to be honest here, though, Kentucky has been working hard to prove that they are second best in this league and definitely not worthy of the top ten, and they have accomplished that tonight. The Wildcats aren't bad by any means, and they are way better than last year, but at this point, I think I can use the "D" word with some authority — disappointment.
02/15/14 Florida vs Kentucky Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
With 6 games to go, Florida's coronation as regular-season SEC champion is looking increasingly like a foregone conclusion. The Gators now hold a 3 game lead over Kentucky. Georgia is the surprise of the season, still sitting at 8-4, good for third in the conference. Ole Miss sits at 7-5 in fourth, and the group of Missouri, LSU, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt are just hanging on to a very, very slim chance to tie for the #1 spot. Perhaps more important is the race for the four double byes into the SEC quarterfinals, which 8 or more teams might have a shot at. This race should crystalize a bit more in the weeks to come.
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) (Updated 2/13/14)
The SEC sends 3 representatives to the tournament in Lunardi's projection: Florida as a 1, Kentucky as a 3, and Tennessee as an 11. LSU and Missouri are in the first four out. I would imagine that this weekend's events will result in Missouri and Tennessee swapping places.
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm) (Updated 2/14/14)
It's slightly rosier for the conference in this one, as Missouri slips into the Dayton games, joining 1 seed Florida, 5 seed Kentucky, and 11 seed Tennessee.
SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) (Updated 2/14/14)
Missouri's win over Arkansas gets them into the last four in, joining #1 Florida and #3 Kentucky. Tennessee and LSU are on the outside looking in. (Your weekly reminder that everybody on the bubble looks awful at times: Missouri's spot came at the expense of BYU, which lost to seventh-place WCC outfit Pacific. One and five point wins may not look impressive, but at least they're wins.)
Game of the Half-Week: Texas A&M at Vanderbilt
With Vanderbilt visiting Columbia this week, I checked in on them to see how they were looking. The answer: not great. This game was about as boring as it is possible for an overtime game to be. A&M led for virtually the whole of regulation, but was unable to find much offense at all, and Vanderbilt was able to make a comeback to tie the game at 49 at the end of regulation, thanks in no small part to the Aggies' awful free throw shooting. The Commodores were able to pull ahead in overtime and hold on for the win.
- I've already made a joke about Vanderbilt being a Big 10 team, but they really do play that style. It's slow-moving and low-scoring, along with solid defense (Vanderbilt ranks 4th in the SEC in points allowed per game.)
- That said, it's not really a great execution of that style, and all the potential ugliness that it can encompass was on full display yesterday. It took Vandy over 4 minutes to score, and they scored exactly once in each of the first three rounds. At one point, the Commodores held A&M scoreless for 9 minutes, and only scored 7 points in that time.
- Vanderbilt's roster features only 7 scholarship players, and one of those had a gimpy ankle yesterday and played only limited minutes. Walk-ons were playing real minutes with the game still in question.
- You might try to challenge a shallow team by forcing them to foul, but Vanderbilt plays quite clean. One Commodore did foul out yesterday, but it took 42 minutes.
- It seemed like the announcers talked about the court as much as they talked about the game. Thank your deity of choice that we don't have to go through that again.
- Random trivia department: Vanderbilt is one of three teams to have made a 3 in every game since the 3-point shot was made legal. I think that sort of streak would make me pretty nervous.
This game shouldn't be too difficult for the Tigers at home, but it's not the kind of game they can afford to lose. Show up ready to play, and it should be a fairly easy win. Don't, and things get dicey.
We'll be back from Sochi next week. Hopefully there will be at least a few SEC blogs that haven't switched to baseball.