My apologies for this being a day late, but sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. The bear got me, so enjoy this Monday version of SECBASKETBALLFEVER!
Vanderbilt (73) - Tennessee (65)
What should have been a joyous occasion for this young Vandy team who has been coming on strong of late distinguishing itself from the other teams in the middle lower half of the SEC was marred by Kevin Stallings absolutely losing it on his own player, Wade Baldwin, and threatening to f'ing kill him. Anchor of Gold has been all over this story so I'm not going to get into it as they are much more qualified to do so, but seriously, mellow out. Vandy looked hideous in the first half and some of the second before catching fire in the second half hitting from long range land we're making it rain left and right. Tennessee had no answers and have now lost four in a row.
Things looked grim for Vanderbilt at halftime. The Commodores' big men were struggling with foul trouble and the team couldn't shoot, protect the ball, or pull down rebounds.
Then, they came alive to put together a second half that looked like something out of NBA Jam to beat their arch rivals on the road.
Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 73-65 thanks to a massive second half effort that erased a 13-point deficit and evened their season series with the Vols at one game apiece. Luke Kornet needed just seven shots to score 21 points and Wade Baldwin IV put together one of the best games off his college career with 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the win.
It is a testament to Donnie Tyndall and this team that we haven't had a game like this yet, showing up in the 27th contest of the year on the 26th of February. But Vanderbilt was 5-9 in the SEC, playing in Knoxville. This wasn't Kentucky. So in the same way this team and this coaching staff get to wear the overachievements of the early part of the year and the respectable competitiveness of the last few weeks, they have to wear tonight's embarrassing final 14 minutes.
Georgia (68) - Mizzou (44)
This game, like many others that Mizzou has played on the road was pretty much over when the game started. The Tigers have found themselves trailing by double digits quickly and often. Georgia from their end were shooting well and every time Mizzou attempted to shut someone down, another Bulldog would get open and knocked down a shot. This win should help UGA's attempt to dance after a odd two game losing streak from a few weeks ago.
The Classic City Canines now own 19 wins on the season, and are a split of their final 2 games away from posting back-to-back 20 win seasons. That's an accomplishment in its own right. But this season will be judged a success by Bulldog fans largely based on where things go from here. Had the Bulldogs been able to weather the recent rash of injuries by not dropping 2 games against South Carolina and a dreadful loss to Auburn, this team would be headed toward the SEC tournament trying to move up to a 6 or perhaps a 5 seed. Instead they've spent the past week in win-to-get-in mode, and I suspect will be playing a tough 8/9 opening round game.
Since it's my first time doing Study Hall, I thought about just going back and copying the first few lines of one of the other bad games from this season to see if anyone noticed. At this stage, after a performance like that, I would completely understand if you didn't watch any of the second half. MIzzou's margin of error is so thin, and going against a clear top 40 team, and one that might be ranked higher if not for a series of untimely injuries, the margin of error is razor thin. So with a razor thin margin of error the Tigers went out and shot 25.8% from the floor in the first half. Georgia played like the good version of the Bulldogs, and the rest is what you saw on television. Ugly for Mizzou fans.
LSU (73) - Ole Miss (63)
The Tigers of LSU started poorly but rebounded to finish strong in the second half to force a three way tie for fourth in the SEC standings and continued to look impressive since their close game with Kentucky. Tim Quarterman put up a triple double in the season sweep of Ole Miss. LSU was led by Stefan Moody, but he was far below the production he'd displayed during their recent hot streak, and the Rebels could be getting a little nervous as they try to close out the season on a high note before SEC tourney play.
At the beginning of the second half a couple of three-pointers by Keith Hornsby and Jalyn Patterson gave The Tigers a 31-29 lead, and got the crowd excited. LSU jumped out to a 54-42 lead on a three by Hornsby, and The Rebels were not able to come within nine after that. The Tigers controlled the pace of the game from about 15 minutes left.
The Rebels still control their own destiny as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, but for a fan base used to watching Kennedy-led teams fall apart down the stretch, the consecutive losses are more than a tad concerning. What's been a surprisingly solid team over the last month has suddenly been plagued with the type of self-induced bullshit -- poor shot selection, defensive lapses, turnovers and even free throw struggles -- that leads to TV remotes beings smashed against walls.
Vanderbilt (73) - Alabama (66)
After being down at halftime, Vandy was able to come back and get a win over the Tide behind hot three point shooting and clutch fee throw shooting to close the game out. Wade Baldwin had another strong game to lead the Commodores and in the end no one threatened murder on anyone so really, everyone's a winner.
And unlike the 1-7 start to conference play, once again this young Vanderbilt team is figuring out what it needs to do to win games in the SEC. The Commodores only committed nine turnovers on the afternoon, and shot 20-25 on free throws -- including 13-of-14 after the final media timeout. That excellent effort at the foul line prevented an Alabama comeback.
Halftime went okay, as nobody scored and the Tide held a comfortable lead the whole time. Unfortunately, all halftimes lead to a second half.
The next 10 minutes of game time were an unmitigated disaster. The sum of the scoring in the next ten minutes of play consisted of: one Levi Randolph free throw, a Michael Kessens tip-in, and 20 points for Vandy to Alabama's 3. The Tide finally decided to make an attempt at playing basketball again, but Vanderbilt never let them get any closer than four points. The Commodores hit 15 of their last 16 free throws to end the game, and Alabama had no chance to outscore the free throw machine.
Kentucky (84) - Arkansas (67)
Another game, another Kentucky win, same old same old it seems. Kentucky was able to slow down Arkansas and then did what they do, out rebound and out muscle you. In what was billed as the SEC game of the year, the matchup was only close for the first half and that wasn't even that close. Arkansas couldn't hit a three and simply you're not beating Kentucky with 2s. Georgia has the last real chance to take down the Cats before the SEC tournament and I'm not even sure that's all that realistic.
Yesterday, the Kentucky Wildcats sent a message, not just to the SEC (which got that message long ago) but to all of college basketball by soundly defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks in Rupp Arena 84-67 in a game that wasn't nearly that close. Despite the undeservedly poor reputation of the SEC (which John Calipari has been doing his level best to ridicule), everyone who watches college basketball knows that Arkansas is a very good team. Kentucky's rude handling of the Razorbacks did nothing to to change that fact.
The good news for Arkansas, with this game being in Lexington and with Kentucky's undefeated record giving them lofty numbers in all ratings, just playing this game is likely to boost Arkansas' numbers more than a loss will drop them. The game boosts Arkansas' strength of schedule, which factors significantly into the team's RPI. We'll have to wait and see where the Hogs land on the latest bracket projections over the next few days, but I suspect it won't change much.
South Carolina (81) - Mississippi State (68)
The Cocks led this game from start to finish and were led by Tyrone Johnson who had 28 points as South Carolina is fighting to not have to play in the opening round of the SEC tournament in Nashville next week. Mississippi State shot well from the field but it wasn't enough or sustainable and the Bulldogs looks to be playing on day 1 of the tournament.
Perhaps more important for the state of the program, one more win will mean that Frank Martin has increased his win total each season with the Gamecocks.
I've been plenty critical of Martin but that would be major evidence of progress if you haven't already noticed it on the court.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls is watching baseball and softball at this point.
Florida (66) - Tennessee (49)
Billy Donovan got his 500th victory and all is right in the world of Florida basketball. Dorian Finney-Smith was taken off of suspension and put up 20 points and 10 boards to sink the Vols. Florida shot well for the game and carved up Tennessee's defense all game long. The losing streak for Tennessee continues and the start of the season that started off so well seems so long ago...
This was vintage Billyball early on. Florida would shoot nearly 60 percent from the field on the night, but the Gators were as great as Beyoncé from three in the first half, sinking seven of 11 triples, and led by 18 - by a 40-22 count - at the break, after a 9-0 blitz to close the half. Florida cooled off in the second half after building a 23-point lead, but it successfully avoided the early pitfalls that have felled it time after time this year, and the Gators held their lead for all but a couple minutes of the 40 in this game.
The answers are always more complex than they seem in the immediate postgame. It seems very unfair to change so much of the narrative about this Tennessee season based on the last 1.5 games; with the Vols up 45-32 on Vanderbilt I was excited about the NIT and what a success story this was. But Tennessee has been embarrassingly bad defensively in these last 54 minutes, and it's come against two sub-.500 teams in the SEC. Florida just lost at Missouri.
Texas A&M (80) - Auburn (55)
The Aggies did what they have done all year long, beat the teams they should be and in doing so now have 20 wins and 11 conference wins. As has been the case all season, the Aggies were led by transfers Danuel House and Jalen Jones who both played strong second halves to put this game away early.
That was a fun evening of basketball. We crushed an inferior opponent at home, which is exactly what tournament-caliber teams are supposed to do. It was cruel, it was methodical, and it was freaking ruthless. And the outcome was never in doubt. Not even for a second.
The Tigers are are just not good enough for the long haul. A&Mi s a big, physical team. Auburn can't compete unless they hit a ton of threes and that didn't happen tonight. On the road in college station, the Tigers didn't stand a chance.
And that'll do it for another week in SECBASKETBALLFEVER! Belegcam has got you covered for the first half of the last week of the conference season and then it's time for some tournament action.
March, it truly is the best month of the year...