Hello, and welcome to the very last of our mid-week recaps for this regular season! It's been quite the interesting ride this season, what with Kentucky's run at going undefeated, a number of bubble teams desperately trying to avoid the pop of doom, and, well, some pretty bad teams too. A lovely combination of great, weird, and eye-gougingly bad.
(Once the infection has lodged itself deep in your system, you actually start liking this stuff in all its imperfect glory. Who needs a bunch of great teams, really?)
This was an especially fun half-week, with many teams hosting Senior Nights. One last chance to show the home fans what they could do lit a fire under some of the conference's seniors, who responded with some performances for the ages. Let's get to the scores!
Ole Miss (82) - Alabama (74)
The Ackbars shored up their tourney resume and spoiled Alabama's Senior Night in the process, led by a 3-point blitz by Stefan Moody and Snoop White (who combined for 44 points). Levi Randolph put up 32 in his last (regular season) game in Tuscaloosa, but it wasn't enough to go out a winner.
Though the Rebs didn't play a perfect game, they showed flashes of dominance, especially in the second half. Moving forward, a win in hostile Crimson-Tide-land helps re-orient a team that's played fledgling basketball the last seven days. AK looked exasperated throughout the night, despite the Rebs' solid performance, which should be expected from a coach who wants to take his team dancing in two weeks' time. PROCESS, gentlemen, process.
It is an article of college basketball faith that a player with 3 fouls early in the second half must go to the bench, regardless of typical foul proneness or importance to their team. This fallacy has burned many a coach, and it got Anthony Grant Tuesday night when he pulled Jimmie Taylor. Roll Bama Roll:
Taylor's big numbers came mostly in the first half, as he was able to stay on the floor because he did not commit a single first half foul. However six minutes into the second half, he had already tallied three and had to go to the bench. When Taylor left after his third foul, 'Bama held a five point lead, by the time he returned the team was down by nine points. The Tide is 13-5 in games when Taylor has not been in major foul trouble, and 4-8 in game where he has been.
Kentucky (72) - Georgia (64)
You might think that Kentucky plays in CoMo, as their performance this season has definitely been what you unexpect. Coming off what was billed as the SEC game of the year against Arkansas, which turned into a runaway win, it was expected to be all downhill from there for the Wildcats on their quest for an undefeated season. And then they stumbled to one of their worst performances of the season against Georgia, escaping late thanks in large part to Georgia free throw woes.
- 40% shooting is about as bad as Kentucky has shot all season. If you can’t beat Kentucky when they shoot under 45%, you just can’t beat them.
- Kentucky missed a tremendous number of easy shots. It was very frustrating.
- Another poor outing from the 3-point line, but frankly, not much was working on offense for the Wildcats tonight.
- Georgia outscored Kentucky in the paint. That should never happen.
- Kentucky had only 8 assists tonight on 25 made field goals. 32% assists is the lowest number I can remember in a very long while for this UK team.
Luck is a part of the game, and I'm not one to discount wins because of "luck," but man, Kentucky got lucky Tuesday.
Georgia did a lot of things right, but things came unraveled at the end. Dawg Sports:
It was a sour end to an otherwise sterling performance by the Bulldogs. Georgia finished the game at 47 percent shooting but were well above 50 percent for much of the game. The Bulldogs execution was on point for much of the night as they did a good job of luring Kentucky's big men away from the basket and used their speed and quickness to attack the basket.
Florida (66) - Texas A&M (62)
A&M suffered a damaging loss Tuesday night, falling to a Florida team shuffling to the end of a massively disappointing season. The loss was actually uglier than the final score indicated, as Florida had led by as many as 16 points before nearly giving the lead away with awful free throw shooting. Probably not fatal for the Aggies' bubble hopes, but definitely a loss that will loom large in the committee's minds if they can't right the ship.
Danuel House was defended beautifully by Billy Donovan and the Gators tonight. The reason why it was so beautiful is because they made it look so simple. Prevent him from driving to the right, and hedge a double team his direction on ball rotation outside the key. Pretty simple, yet a death-blow for the Aggie offense and Danuel House. The frustrating part for Aggie fans is that nothing is done during the game to adjust and get your best scoring opportunity better looks. This could spell trouble for the Aggies heading into the SEC Tournament and what's trending towards a play-in game in the NCAA Tournament. House finished the game with zero points on 0-10 shooting and 4 turnovers.
Florida gashed TAMU with a few huge runs, sending Jacob Kurtz out a winner. Alligator Army:
And Florida played very, very well after falling into a 10-0 hole by the under-16 timeout: The Gators responded to that with a 17-4 burst of their own, allowing the Aggies just one made basket over nearly nine minutes of play, and went into halftime leading by three at 26-23. In the second half, things nearly got out of hand, with Florida clicking off a 17-2 run that featured all nine of Murphy's points en route to their 16-point lead. The Gators even led by 16 again with 3:13 to play after five straight points from Carter.
Missouri (63) - Auburn (61)
Does it really count as a Senior Night if the player has only been there a year or two? Keith Shamburger says, "Heck yes it does!" Monsieur Fake Sandwich led Mizzou in nearly every statistical category and made the game-winning shot to boot. Keanau Post was overshadowed by that performance (as most players would be) but put in a very respectable performance in his last game at Mizzou Arena.
One of Mizzou's biggest problems this year has been having only two guys show up and never knowing which two guys that was going to be. Granted, this game was basically the same for the first 35 minutes or so -- Mizzou was down 59-51 with 3:30 left (to a 12-18 team at home), after all -- but we got a flash of something different in the last five minutes.
But on a positive note, KT Harrell. What a kid. He's done great things for Auburn all season, and he hit double-digit points again tonight. With a proper supporting cast (or even just a 100% healthy one), it hurts to imagine what might've been for Auburn's record against SEC opponents. He's got one more regular season game left, but I'm already missing him. War Eagle, K3.
Tennessee (78) - LSU (63)
Whoops. With a NCAA tournament bid on the line, the Bayou Bengals fell flat against Tennessee, at home no less. Add another Inexplicable LSU Loss to the list. Josh Richardson led the visitors with 20 points, with Keith Hornsby putting up 25 in a losing effort.
In the last two games we've lamented Tennessee's inability to stop anything Vanderbilt or Florida wanted to do in stretches. Tonight, on the road at a potential NCAA Tournament team, over five and a half minutes the Vols hit eight of nine shots and outscored LSU 19-5. Six different Tennessee players made a shot in that run.
I know we've had our fair share of discussion on Johnny Jones here this season, and I definitely fall on the critical side. I know some of you think I have it out for him. Let me assure you: I am not rooting for him to fail, and I will be the first to admit that he's been a net positive for the program. Still, I don't know how you can watch this team continually throw games away against so obviously inferior teams and defend the kind of in-game coach he is. The run-stunting timeouts constantly seem to be two possessions too late. The offense can get lost in the wilderness for full halves at a time and the defense can suddenly don matador capes despite having the league's most prolific shot blocker. It all came to a head again on Wednesday night.
And that ultimately worries me going forward, because Jones can get the players in here. Next year's haul is full of studs, but I wonder just how much we can expect to win with them. After all, LSU is thoroughly on the bubble now, with a road game at Arkansas left. And this is all with two years of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, yet we are left waiting for the consistency needed to make the Big Dance.
Vanderbilt (66) - Mississippi State (56)
Vanderbilt continued their recent run of (relative) success by taking down Mississippi State. Riley LaChance put up 15 for the Dores, and Craig Sword led the visitors with 20.
Mississippi State and the Vanderbilt came into Wednesday night's contest in Nashville as two programs going in opposite directions since the Bulldogs' earlier victory over the Commodores this year, and they left as two teams still going in opposite directions as Vanderbilt powered past Mississippi State in the second half to secure a 66-56 victory.
A quick 10-0 run gave Vanderbilt the lead for good at the first media timeout of the second half but MSU refused to go away quietly. State pulled to within two points on two separate occasions but could never overcome the Commodores' hustle on both ends of the floor. Siakam was the engine behind those plays. The senior was all over the court, diving on loose balls and extending possessions for the Commodores in front of an appreciative home crowd. Though Vandy made just two of their final six free throws, their defense was able to seal up an emotional victory at Memorial Gym.
Confused about SEC Tournament seeding scenarios? Commodore Tom has done the thinking so you don't have to. Seriously. You don't want to think about how many tiebreaker scenarios LSU plays a prominent role in.
Chris will wrap up the season for you Sunday, and we should be providing you coverage of the action in Nashville as well (format TBD). Thanks to all the readers out there, it's been another great season.