WHAT HAPPENED: The third-ranked Gators used an early burst in the second half to open up a game that was tied at the break and speed to their 10th win in as many tries in Southeastern Conference play. UF put five players in double-figures, led by Scottie Wilbekin’s 16 points and forward Will Yeguete’s most complete game of the season. Yeguete finished with 12 points on 6-for-8 from the floor, three rebounds and four assists. The numbers will say Florida did not play great defense, as Alabama shot 55 percent from the floor and 54 from the 3-point line, but the Gators forced 16 turnovers which led to 27 points.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Gators won their 15th straight and maintained that two-game cushion over Kentucky in the SEC standings. It was also the team’s 29th consecutive win at the O’Dome, padding that school record.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Senior forward and UF leading scorer Casey Prather came into the game having totaled just 12 points his previous two games, while fighting through a sore ankle. He was limited during Friday’s practice, but went 7-for-11 from the field and carded 15 points and six rebounds.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: The Gators went 1-for-5 from the 3-point line in the first half, making them 10-for-59 for the second in the first half of home games. That’s 16.9 percent. Repeat: On. Their. Home. Floor. Conversely, after UF went 5-for-12 from distance at its home bench end in the second half, the Gators are now 28-for-64 from after halftime at the O'Dome (43.7 percent). Go ahead, explain that.
SUBPLOT: On the Chris Walker watch, the freshman center who made his spectacular debut in the Tuesday win over Missouri with a pair of monster all-oop dunks, played similar minutes and scored four points. Yes, he had another dunk.
UP NEXT: The season-long three-game SEC home stand is complete. Now the Gators (21-2, 10-0) are on the road for back-to-back road dates -- their toughest two straight in the league -- when they’ll play at Tennessee (14-8, 5-4) Tuesday night, then at Kentucky (17-5, 17-2) next Saturday night at 9 p.m. The Volunteers will be out to avenge last month’s 26-point pasting in Gainesville, while the Wildcats will be on the Gators’ heels in the race for the conference’s regular-season crown. We’ll know a lot more about UF’s standing in the SEC a week from today.
Kentucky Downs MSU to Improve to 8-2 in SEC Play
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STARKVILE, Miss. – Mississippi State placed four players in double figures and turned in a superb defensive effort. However, that was not enough to take down No. 18 Kentucky.
After building a healthy lead late in the first half, Kentucky completed a season sweep of MSU with a 69-59 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball win at the Humphrey Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Kentucky improved to 18-5 overall and 8-2 in league play, while MSU fell to 13-10 and 3-7.
“Our defense was really good in the first half,” MSU sophomore forward Gavin Ware said. “It was compact. In the second half, we had too many loose ends. We just have to learn how to do this for two halves. We competed hard. We just have to find a way to push through and get a win.”
Kentucky scored the game’s first six points. MSU answered with an 11-3 run. A dunk by Craig Sword placed the Bulldogs on top, 11-9. The Bulldogs later ran the lead to 17-13 on a pair of free throws by Gavin Ware.
The teams were last tied at 19, before Kentucky ended the half with a 13-4 run. The Bulldogs had an eight-minute stretch with only one made field goal. By the time that stretch ended, Kentucky led 32-23 at halftime.
“I was really pleased with how we competed,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “When you play hard and have that competitive spirit, you can compete with anybody. From our bodies standpoint and our offensive standpoint, we can’t play without a certain level of energy.”
A layup by Sword brought the Bulldogs within 32-26 less than a minute into the second half. MSU would not get any closer the rest of the way.
Kentucky built the lead to a game-largest 12-point advantage at 51-39 on two James Young free throws with 10:37 left in the contest. The Bulldogs were down 12 two more times, before Ware hit two free throws to bring the deficit to 57-50 with 7:03 left in the contest.
“This team has shown some growth and maturity,” Ware said. “Even though we played ranked teams, they still put on the jersey the same way we do. We just have to keep working hard and take advantage of the scouting report to pull out some wins.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 18 of 47 shots from the field (38.3 percent), 1 of 8 shots from 3-point range (12.5 percent) and 22 of 28 shots from the foul line (78.6 percent). The Wildcats hit 27 of 60 shots from the field (45.0 percent), 3 of 18 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 12 of 18 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).
Kentucky held a 38-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 13 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 12 assists and nine turnovers.
MSU will host Georgia in an 8 p.m. start Wednesday. The contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.
Tennessee Notches 13th Straight Win Over South Carolina
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee beat South Carolina for the 13th consecutive time with a dominating 72-53 victory on Saturday before 17,215 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols notched their eighth wire-to-wire win of the season and fourth in SEC in moving to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in league play. South Carolina is now 8-15 and 1-9 in the the SEC.
Playing his 100th career game, senior Jordan McRae tallied 24 points for his 57th career game in double-figures.
Junior Jarnell Stokes posted 17 points and eight rebounds as his streak of four double-doubles came to an end. Senior Jeronne Maymon added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Armani Moore tied his career-high with nine points.
The Vols opened the game on a 16-2 run and never looked back. South Carolina made just one of its first 11 shots while the Vols connected on seven of its first 11 attempts.
Sindarius Thornwell (team-high 15 points) finally got the Gamecocks on the board -- he scored their first nine points. South Carolina cut their early deficit to eight points, but Tennessee ripped off seven points in a row including a pair of 3-pointers from McRae to take a 28-13 lead with a little more than eight minutes left in the first half.
Stokes emphatically slammed home a pair of dunks to wrap up an 11-2 run for a 32-15 lead.
Tennessee led 45-22 at halftime as McRae (20) and Stokes (13) combined for 33 points. The Vols scored their points in a first half vs. an SEC team since leading 50-26 over Kentucky last February.
South Carolina cut their deficit to 13 points thanks to a 10-0 spurt midway through the second as Cuonzo Martin inserted several reserves for the Vols. Armani Moore's 3-pointer stopped the run for the Vols as Tennessee took a 57-41 lead with 8:30 left in the game.
After McRae, Maymon, Stokes and Darius Thompson returned to the line-up the lead returned to a 20-point margin. Tennessee cruised for the remainder of the game.
Tennessee has not lost to the Gamecocks in nearly six years since South Carolina posted an 81-64 win on Feb. 17, 2007.
The Vols continue their two-game homestand on Tuesday night as No. 3 Florida comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7 p.m., tip-of. That game will air on ESPN and can be heard on the Vol Network.
Razorbacks Win at Vanderbilt 77-75
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A baseline three pointer from Michael Qualls put the Raozrbacks over Vanderbilt for good, winning 77-75 on the road.
Arkansas played all 40 minutes with a hot hand, shooting over 50 percent fom the floor and three point range. Led by Qualls's 17 points a quartet of Razorbacks finished in double digits, Coty Clarke, Rashad Madden and Mardracus Wade. Wade's 11 points on 3-of-5 tie his previous season high.
Arkansas frustrated Vanderbilt's Magnificent Seven and controlled the pace of the game for most of the 40 minutes before giving up a 12-0 Vanderbilt run, falling behind by 2 with a minute left. The Razorbacks capitalized on their depth and enjoyed a 40-2 advantage in points off the bench. Arkansas played tough and low on defense, coming away with 11 steals and 10 points on the run.
Clarke and Bobby Portis combined for 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Strength under the basket helped the Hogs hold on late to record their first SEC road win of the 2013-14 season.
LSU Basketball Bounces Back to Beat Auburn, 87-80
BATON ROUGE – LSU posted 55 second-half points, with five treys and 26 free throws in the second half to rally from a point down at halftime to score an 87-80 win over Auburn Saturday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers are now 15-7 on the season, 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference, while Auburn is now 11-10 and 3-7 in the league. LSU is now 5-1 in the league at home, winners of five straight in the building.
Five LSU players scored in double figures with Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey both posting double doubles on the afternoon. JOB III had his fifth of the year with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Mickey had his seventh double up of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Andre Stringer off the bench made 10-of-12 free throws and finished with 18 points and seven assists while Anthony Hickey had 17 points with five treys. Jarell Martin made it three straight double figure games for the second time this year with 11 points.
Auburn was paced by Chris Denson who had 19 first half points, but was held to 10 in the second half to finish with 29 points. KT Harrell had 19 and Tahj Shamsid-Deen had 16.
LSU shot 45.6 percent for the game (26-of-57), including 8-of-21 from the arc (5-of-10 in the second half). Ole Miss finished the game at 40.3 percent (29-of-72) after shooting just 35 percent in the second half. Auburn was 6-of-23 (26.1%) from the arc.
After the teams combined to shoot two free throws in the first half, there were 59 free throws in the final 20 minutes with LSU making 26-of-36 (72.2%) in the half and Auburn 16-of-23 (69.6%).
Auburn won the battle in the paint, 42-26, and in points off turnovers, 22-11.
The first half started out good for Auburn as Denson and Harrell combined to get the visiting Tigers off to a 6-1 advantage. Martin got the first of his points on a dunk but then Harrell hit a trey and Denson got a dunk and the Auburn margin was 11-3.
LSU would eventually get his offense in gear, down 15-10, when Martin would hit a jumper followed by a Mickey layup. Martin and O’Bryant III would hit back-to-back layups to give the Tigers an 18-15 advantage completing an 8-0 run for LSU.
But the teams traded buckets with LSU up 22-19 before Denson had a layup and Auburn had back-to-back treys to make it 27-22 with 4 minutes left. Auburn continued to take advantage of LSU misses and get a couple of run outs to go up 31-27 before Hickey hit his second trey to cut the Auburn lead to 31-30 with 1:18 to play.
Auburn then turned the ball over and Stringer went coast-to-coast to give LSU a 32-31 advantage. But Denson, who had 19 first half points drove the lane and laid it up to give Auburn back a 33-32 lead. On its final possession of the half, Stringer missed a three for the halftime margin of one to the visitor.
The LSU Tigers came out to start the second half after an Auburn miss, LSU connected on a Hickey three to make it 35-33 LSU. But Auburn countered with a bucket, an LSU turnover and a bucket and foul to put Auburn back up three, 38-35, with 18:50 remaining in the game. But JOB III countered with a bucket and a free throw to tie the game for the second time at 38-38.
Auburn missed two shots and Mickey got a bucket to give LSU the lead, 40-38. After an Auburn turnover, JOB III found Hickey for his fourth trey of the game and LSU was up five, 43-38. Two free throws extended the LSU lead to 45-38 at the 15:54 mark.
Denson, who had 19 points in the first half, did not have any points for Auburn in the first five minutes of the second half.
LSU continued to keep Auburn at bay, getting the seven point lead back at 55-48 with 11:32 to go, but Denison got his first points of the half on Auburn’s next possession before two JOB III free throws boosted LSU back up 57-50 at the 10:55 mark. After an Auburn miss, an LSU free throw made it 58-50, LSU’s biggest lead that extended to 11 when Stringer hit a three to force an Auburn time out at the 10:11 mark with LSU up, 61-50.
LSU had gotten in the double bonus 10 minutes into the second half and had 18 free throw attempts in the first 12 minutes of the half, getting as much as a 14-point lead in the final four minutes.
The game turned into a battle of the free throw line but the Tigers were able to get key buckets down the stretch to stop an Auburn comeback from getting any closer than five points in the final minutes.
Malik Morgan injured his right leg late in the contest and Coach Johnny Jones said in his post-game press conference that he would be reevaluated at the start of the week.
LSU will be no worse than a two or three-way tie for fourth at the end of the evening heading to a week on the road beginning Wednesday at Texas A&M and then next Saturday at Arkansas. LSU doesn’t play again in the Maravich Center until Wednesday, February 19, against Mississippi State.
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Ole Miss Outlasts Missouri, 91-88
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Marshall Henderson hit eight three-pointers en route to 29 points as Ole Miss held off Missouri 91-88 in Oxford on Saturday.
Henderson hit 8-of-15 from long range in the game, and he also had five assists and two rebounds.
Three other Rebels were also in double figures. Jarvis Summers had 16 points, LaDarius White had 16 points and six rebounds, while Anthony Perez added 11.
The Rebels (16-7, 7-3 SEC) shot an even 50 percent (29-of-58) from the floor in the game, including 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from three-point range. Ole Miss had 19 assists on their 29 made baskets.
Missouri got big efforts from all three of its guards. Earnest Ross led the Tigers (16-7, 4-6) with 24 points. Jordan Clarkson had 23 and Jabari Brown had 20. The rest of the Tigers combined to score 21 points.
With the win, Ole Miss remained alone in third place in the SEC standings, one game behind Kentucky.
ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia men’s basketball team picked up its second win in a row, beating Texas A&M 62-50 Saturday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (12-10, 6-4) were led in scoring by Kenny Gaines who scored 14 points. Donte’ Williams was just one point short of a double-double, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Let’s first give Texas A&M credit for being a really good defensive team,” said head coach Mark Fox. “As I said on my radio show before the game, they defend and they play disciplined offensively and then just stay right there in a game and give themselves a chance to win. We knew it would be a possession-by-possession game because that’s just how they play and they’re good at it. Their defense was good. Their defense was better than our offense.
“I wasn’t pleased with our team today in shootaround and it was one of the first times all year that I had to get on our team [during a shootaround]. We just didn’t play as sharp as we had, and again that’s taking nothing away from Texas A&M because you have to give their defense credit. We are fortunate to win. It’s a good win. In this league, every win is good so we’ll certainly take it.”
After a slow offensive start for both teams, Georgia used an 11-4 run to take a 25-18 with just two minutes remaining in the half. Texas A&M (13-10, 4-6), however, scored the half’s final five points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, to shrink the Bulldog deficit to 25-23 headed into the halftime break.
The Aggies fought back to take a 40-39 at the midpoint in the second half with a layup from Shawn Smith, but Georgia quickly re-took the lead on a 5-0 run. Texas A&M wouldn’t lead again, as Georgia shook off multiple offensive spurts by the Aggies. Georgia pumped the lead to eight—its largest of the game to the point—off of a steal and slam by Charles Mann which secured Georgia’s 12th win of the season.
Jamal Jones led Texas A&M with 17 points and six rebounds.
Georgia will travel to Starkville, Miss. to play Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7) Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on CSS.