(Sorry for the lateness on this one. Traveling somewhere is great, but the act of traveling is awful.)
On Friday at the SEC tournament, the top four seeds came back from a lengthy layover, their longest since the conference season started. When there's a long layoff, the question is always raised: would you rather have the rest that comes with the 2-round bye, or avoid the rust by playing the day before? Yesterday, most of the top teams got through all right, if not impressively. Most of them.
Kentucky (64) - Florida (49)
The Wildcats were, indeed, rusty, shooting just 38 percent from the floor. However, a combination of UK defense and Florida offensive ineptitude resulted in a final 9:28 in which the Gators made just 2 shots. The result was Kentucky picking up a win for the 32nd time. Florida will now see if the NIT is interested (apparently you don't need to go .500).
The Gators did, once again, exploit Kentucky's defense down low and on drives: Jon Horford nearly matched a career high with 15 points, and Kasey Hill and Eli Carter combining for 19 points of their own, 16 of which came on two-pointers. But they also made just two field goals in the final 9:28 of play, and shot just five free throws all day, as officiating that was inconsistent at best and Florida's lack of prowess at drawing fouls conspired to keep the Gators from narrowing a lead Kentucky never relinquished after the 8:44 mark of the first half.
This was the kind of game that I expected to see from Kentucky after a layoff, and I hope they’ve gotten it out of their system. It was a messy, ugly offensive effort and although the defense was better than the offense, I thought there were too many breakdowns that the Wildcats shouldn’t be making at this point in the season.
Auburn (73) - LSU (70) (OT)
Really, we should have seen this coming. LSU gonna LSU. KT Harell took over the game late, hitting a last-second 3 to send the game to OT and then putting the Tigers (Alabaman version) ahead for the first time all game in the extra period. Auburn is rewarded for its rampage over the SEC's bubble teams with a semifinal matchup with Kentucky, while LSU will wait and hope the committee pays more attention to good wins than bad losses.
Unreal. Auburn's SEC Tournament journey continues. The Tigers will face #1, unbeaten, Kentucky. Be the team they do "30 For 30" specials on, Auburn. Do it. Win the WHOLE. F^CKING. THING.
And the Valley Shook hasn't put up a full post yet. Here's Crabshire in the game thread:
FINAL: Auburn 73, LSU 70
LSU just straight up throws a game away.
Yet another indefensible loss.
Arkansas (80) - Tennessee (72)
The Razorbacks didn't show any signs of rust early, jumping out to an 18-3 lead from the opening tip. Instead, it was the second half when they ran into trouble, allowing Tennessee to get within 4 before salting the game away from the free throw line. The Volunteers will now wait and see if the NIT (or possibly CBI?) are interested.
The win over Vanderbilt helps give this season the sense of a good ending even if tonight was it against a good Arkansas team. We'll see where things shake out for Tennessee over the weekend, and then enter into the prolonged waiting game with the NCAA and Donnie Tyndall. But if tonight was it for Josh Richardson (22 and 10) and the 2015 Vols, they battled through difficult circumstances, competed more often than not, and showed flashes of what could be if Tyndall can stay around and recruit at the level we need.
It was one of those games that have been all too common for the Razorbacks over the last few weeks, in which the Hogs built up a big lead in the first half only to see it threatened in the second instead of holding onto the blowout. The detriment in doing that in a tournament like this is that Arkansas potentially lost an opportunity to limit the minutes the starters had to play and keep them a little more fresh for tomorrow's game. But it didn't work out that way, naturally.
Georgia (74) - South Carolina (62)
The Bulldogs also played well after their break, putting away upstart South Carolina with a 17-5 run to close the game after the Gamecocks tied it with 5:23 to go. Georgia will move on to face Arkansas in the second semifinal, while South Carolina will wait on a long-shot NIT bid.
Neither Dawg Sports nor Garnet and Black Attack had a recap post up today.
Only 3 SEC games left to go in the season. Join us tomorrow as Kentucky continues their quest for an undefeated season.