A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

SEC Tournament Roundup, Day Two:
South Carolina rolls into quarterfinals


ATLANTA — No. 13-seeded South Carolina won two of three to close the regular season (and lost the other to No. 1 Florida), and Frank Martin’s Gamecocks carried that mojo into the SEC tournament. South Carolina’s defense stood firm against Arkansas in the final minutes Thursday, despite poor free-throw shooting on the other end, and the Gamecocks advanced to the SEC tournament quarterfinal with a 71-69 win over the Razorbacks on Thursday afternoon.
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South Carolina all but ended the Razorbacks’ hopes for an NCAA tournament bid—a shame for a team that had been playing very well heading into the SEC tournament, winning eight of nine before closing the regular season with a mysterious 83-58 loss to Alabama. The Gamecocks will play Tennessee in Friday’s quarterfinal. Tennessee won the regular-season meeting between the two, a 72-53 victory in Knoxville on Feb. 8.

 

Missouri 91, Texas A&M 83 (double overtime)

The Tigers kept their faint NCAA tournament hopes alive, barely, advancing to the quarterfinal with a double-overtime win over Texas A&M on Thursday. Missouri now has the right, or perhaps the obligation, to play No. 1 Florida in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The Gators have won 23 games in a row and have not lost a game this season with point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was suspended early in the season.

 

The Tigers held a five-point lead with a minute left in the first overtime, but the Aggies charged back. They hit four free throws in the final minutes in four tries, eventually cutting the lead to two points. Texas A&M stole an inbounds pass with about 11 seconds to play, and Blake McDonald flipped the ball over to Alex Caruso for the tying lay-up with about eight seconds left.

 

Missouri shot 40 of 53 from the foul line, and that’s where the Tigers pulled away in the second overtime.

 

LSU 68, Alabama 56

 

LSU was 11 of 22 from three-point range, earning a 12-point win that looked more dominant in a game with a very low number of possessions (59) than a 12-point margin of victory would seem to indicate. The Tigers had no trouble dispatching Alabama and moved on to face Kentucky in Friday night’s quarterfinal round.

 

The biggest question now is: Will Anthony Grant be retained as the Alabama coach? Auburn fired its coach, Tony Barbee, after a loss at the SEC tournament Wednesday, and Grant is rumored to be on the hot seat in his fifth season in Tuscaloosa. Grant was one of the hottest up-and-coming names in coaching when he left VCU for Alabama. If Billy Donovan were to leave Florida for any reason, Grant was the popular name to be his ultimate successor (Grant is a Donovan protege).

 

But in five seasons, Alabama is 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, never winning a game in the big dance with underrated senior guard Trevor Releford (whose college career ended Thursday with 11 points on 2 of 11 shooting). This season was by far Grant’s worst: The Crimson Tide finished 13-19—Grant’s only season under .500 in eight total seasons as a head coach—and 7-11 in the SEC.

 

Barbee was fired less than an hour after his loss Wednesday. More than 12 hours since Alabama’s loss, nothing has been said either way about Grant’s job status.

 

Ole Miss 78, Mississippi State 66

 

Mississippi State, the tournament’s bottom seed, won on Wednesday and looked ready to upset its most bitter rival after 20 minutes Thursday. The Bulldogs shot 58 percent in the first half and led 44-35 at the break. That seemed, though, like it couldn’t last, and it didn’t.

 

Ole Miss took the lead for the first time at 57-56, pulling away from there on the backs of its two star guards. Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers each scored 21 points. Henderson was 7 of 19 from three-point range.


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