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    SEC Men's Basketball Roundup: Sunday, December 22

    SUNDAY MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
    Auburn 77, Boston College 67
    Mississippi State 71, South Florida 66
    South Carolina 78, Saint Mary's 71
    Mercer 79, Ole Miss 76

     

    Harrell heats up as Auburn beats Boston College

    AUBURN, Ala. -- KT Harrell heated up early and never really cooled off Sunday. He scored outside and inside, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 29 points to lead Auburn to a 77-67 victory over Boston College at Auburn Arena.

    The Tigers moved to 6-3 with their second straight victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team. They beat Clemson 66-64 on Thursday night.

    Harrell. who transferred from Virginia and sat out last season, hit 10-of-17 from the field and was 3-of-3 at the free throw line. He added three assists and two rebounds. Chris Denson added 15 points on 4-of-14 shooting and freshman point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Shamsid-Deen hit 2-of-3 from the free throw line. As a team, the Tigers were 10-of-22.

    Auburn coach Tony Barbee said Harrell took his offensive game to another level against the Eagles.

    “KT was big,” Barbee said. “I’ve been waiting for a breakout. He’s played well all year. Self-confidence is an issue sometimes with KT. I’ve been on him to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep being aggressive. Tonight he was that.”

    Guard Olivier Hanlan had 28 for Boston College, which lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 4-8 on the season.

    Auburn broke away late in the first half to lead 37-24 at the break and scored the first seven points of the second half to go up 44-24. Boston College got as close to eight in the second half but could get no closer. The game was delayed by some 20 minutes when the game clock and shot clock above Auburn’s basket malfunctioned and had to be replaced.

    After Boston College got within eight at 70-62 with 1:43 left, Auburn put the game away at the free throw line. Shamsid-Deen’s two free throws put the Tigers up 77-64 with 40 seconds left.

    Boston College, Barbee said, is better than its record.

    “They are a tough team and have played an incredibly tough schedule,” Barbee said. “We knew they were going to be desperate to get a win before the break. I thought we did a lot of great things.”

    Harrell said he started the game determined to play the way Barbee has urged him to play.

    “I was just trying to be aggressive,” Harrell said. “I’m confident in myself, but coach challenges me a lot. I think it was more I just answered the challenge.”

    Barbee said, after blowouts at the hands of Iowa State and Illinois, winning two games was big. But he said the Tigers began their turnaround at practice.

    “They were big, but the practices were even better,” Barbee said. “The way these guys have been fighting and working all year long, I’m proud of them. The toughness factor, these guys are starting to get what we have to be about.”

    The Tigers broke for Christmas after Sunday’s game. They will return to the court on Dec. 30 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.





    MSU Men's Basketball Wins Opener at Las Vegas Classic

    LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Mississippi State held its own against a massive, physical front line from South Florida.

    Leading the rebounding statistic and sparked by Gavin Ware’s fourth double-double of the season, the Bulldogs beat the Bulls 71-66 in an opening-round game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena.

    The Bulldogs won their fourth straight to improve to 9-2 overall. MSU will face either UNLV or Santa Clara at 9:30 p.m. CT Monday for the tournament championship. That contest will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network.

    “I told the guys you can’t win the big championship until you start winning the little championships,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “We are going to treat this game (Monday) like it is very important, because it is a chance to win a championship. We played really well tonight but it is a quick turnaround and we have to come out and do it again against another quality team.”

    Ray was concerned in the pregame because he felt like South Florida would present the biggest front line MSU has faced this year.

    The Bulldogs responded to that challenge by having a plus-one rebounding advantage and by earning 25 free throw attempts, compared to the Bulls’ 15.

    The inside dominance started with Ware who had 10 points and matched a career high with 15 rebounds. Roquez Johnson also gave his fellow big man some relief and hit a pair of baskets during an 8-2 run in the second half.

    “We don’t win the game without Gavin Ware stepping up and playing the way he did,” Ray said. “He got some really big rebounds, especially his last one (with a four-point lead inside the final minute). He really took this game as a big challenge and delivered big time.”

    MSU dropped behind 12-5 four minutes into the contest. The Bulldogs pulled even at 14 and things were nip-and-tuck until Fred Thomas sparked a mini-rally and helped the Maroon and White out to a 31-22 advantage – the game’s largest for either time.

    South Florida hit a 3-point basket as the half expired, cutting the deficit to 38-35.

    In the second half, USF battled back for its only lead at 45-44. That lead was quickly erased when Colin Borchert was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt and hit all three free throws. A layup by Johnson ran the lead to 58-52 before USF battled back for one final tie at 58.

    From there, the Bulldogs regrouped and a critical steal by Trivante Bloodman helped swing the game for good.

    “The guys from the beginning came out and really competed,” Ray said. “We fell down 12-5 quickly and the guys stuck with it. We had a lot of hustle plays and knocked some balls loose out of the 1-3-1.”

    For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 25 of 55 shots from the field (45.5 percent), 5 of 14 shots from 3-point range (35.7 percent) and 16 of 25 shots from the foul line (64.0 percent). The Bulls hit 24 of 52 shots from the field (46.2 percent), 6 of 15 shots from 3-point range (40.0 percent) and 12 of 15 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent).

    MSU held a 32-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 13 turnovers, while the Bulls had 11 assists and 18 turnovers.

    Thomas paced MSU with 14 points, while Borchert added 11 points. Johnson, Sword and Ware each had 10 points. IJ Ready had seven assists.

    Victor Rudd led South Florida with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Corey Allen, Jr. added 16 points and Chris Perry added 14 points for the Bulls.





    Gamecocks Open Diamond Head Classic With 78-71 Win Over Saint Mary's

    HONOLULU, Hawaii - South Carolina (3-5) opened play at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Sunday with a 78-71 victory over previously unbeaten Saint Mary's (9-1) behind four Gamecocks scoring in double-figures, including a team high 16 from junior guard Tyrone Johnson and a career high 12 points from sophomore forward Laimonas Chatkevicius.

    The Gamecocks shot a stellar 58.3 percent (28-48) from the field in the win, including a 4-of-7 (57.1%) mark from 3-point range. The shooting percentage for the Gamecocks was the highest since Carolina hit 57.7 percent (30-52) in a win vs. Arkansas on Jan. 26, 2013. South Carolina held the Gaels to 40.7 percent (22-54) from the floor in the game.

    South Carolina held a one-point lead after freshman forward Demetrius Henry blocked a shot by SMC's Stephen Holt, and responded with a fast break lay-up at the opposite end, for a 7-6 Gamecock advantage with 14 minutes remaining in the first half.

    Carolina played solid defense in the early part of the contest, holding Saint Mary's to just 4-of-17 from the field through the first 11 minutes.

    The Gamecocks led 16-8 near the nine-minute mark before the Gaels responded with a quick 6-0 run fueled by a 3, and another 3-point play from Holt. The Gamecocks responded with a 7-0 run of their own behind a 3 and fast break lay-in from Johnson through the seven-minute mark to lead 23-14 with six minutes to play.

    South Carolina extended its lead to as many as 12 during the opening half, but the Gaels began to close the gap with a pair of 3s on back-to-back possessions from James Walker III with just over 90 seconds to play in the frame. Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell hit a jumper during the stretch, but Holt scored his 10th point of the half on a lay-in at the buzzer to put the score at 33-27 Gamecocks at the half.

    South Carolina played with stellar energy and stifling defense through the first half. The Gaels hit just 9-of-31 (29.0%) during the opening frame, far below their season average of 48 percent, with the Gamecocks connecting on 12-of-22 (54.5%), led by Johnson's 10 points, in the first half. Henry was big on the boards for Carolina during the opening half, pulling down a season high eight rebounds in just the opening 20 minutes of play.

    Saint Mary's scored three quick points out of the break on a lay-in and free throw from junior forward Brad Waldow. The Gamecocks would score on consecutive possessions, a dunk from Chatkevicius and jumper from freshman guard Duane Notice, but Waldow would added two more buckets at the opposite end and the score stood at 37-33 Carolina through the 18-minute mark.

    South Carolina would score on the next three possessions, with the Gaels' Jordan Giusti providing a 3 during the stretch. Carolina's lead was 43-37 at the under-16 minute media timeout.

    The Gaels would answer, as a lay-in from Walker tied the contest at 45 with 12:49 to play. The teams traded baskets through the next possessions and the contest was tied at 50 at the under-12 minute media timeout of the half.

    Chatkevicius connected for dunks on consecutive possessions out of the timeout and Carolina took a four-point lead at 54-50, 10:36 to play.

    Back and forth play continued, but consecutive baskets from Johnson near the nine-minute mark pushed Carolina's lead to 59-54. The score stayed close, before a 3-point play from Notice with just under six on the clock pushed Carolina's lead to 66-60.

    Thornwell scored back-to-back lay-ups with the second pushing Carolina's lead to 70-62 with 4:16 to play in the contest. The Gaels responded with a 3 from Kerry Carter with just under four minutes to play and the score stood at the final media timeout of the set.

    Giusti hit one of two free throws for the Gaels out of the timeout, but SMC collected an offensive rebound on the miss, and Levesque scored a lay-in on the possession to put the score at 70-68.

    Williams extended Carolina's lead to 73-68 on his second made 3 of the contest with 2:12 showing on the clock. The teams would once again trade baskets, but Chatkevicius would score two of his 12 points, and Thornwell would hit two from the line with under 30 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Gamecocks.

    The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Carolina. Thornwell would add 13 points in the win, and Notice posted a season high 11.

    South Carolina will play the winner of the Boise State versus Hawaii contest on Monday at 9 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2.





    Rebels Fall To Mercer At The Buzzer

    OXFORD, Miss. -- Jarvis Summers scored 21 points and Marshall Henderson added 18, including a 3-pointer to tie the game with 13 seconds left, but Mercer hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 79-76 victory Sunday.

    Mercer point guard Langston Hall hit a 3-point shot with 0.6 seconds remaining as the Bears erased a seven-point deficit in the final six minutes Sunday to defeat the Rebels.

    Mercer (8-4) placed four players in double figures, led by Ike Nwamu with 24 points, and survived a furious Ole Miss rally that wiped out a 16-point second-half Mercer lead. Hall scored 17 points, added six assists and four rebounds.

    Lawrence Brown and Jakob Gollon added 10 points apiece for Mercer, who led 41-29 at halftime. Ole Miss rallied to take a 67-60 lead with six minutes remaining, setting up the decisive surge by the Bears.

    Ole Miss (8-3) was led by Jarvis Summers with 21 points, Marshall Henderson with 18 and Aaron Jones added 10. Henderson hit a three-point shot with 10 seconds left to set up the game-winner by Hall.