SEC report:

Projectors see 3 or 4 in NCAA

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Kentucky's Julius Randle (30) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 77-76. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
Kentucky's Julius Randle (30) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 77-76. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Jerry Palm of projected three SEC teams as NCAA Tournament seeds in his most recent report on Sunday: Florida (1), Kentucky (5) and Missouri (11).

Joe Lunardi of seeds four SEC teams in the field: Florida (1), Kentucky (5) and Missouri (11).

Tennessee (11) was one of his last four teams in the field.

Even with Bradley

If Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson makes a threepointer in Wednesday’s game against Alabama, he’ll knock former Razorback Pat Bradley out of the SEC record books.

Henderson has made a three-pointer in 60 consecutive games, which ties him with Bradley for the conference record.

Henderson made 7 of 14 shots, 5 of 11 from three-point range, and had 22 points as Ole Miss was tied with Florida 42-42 at halftime on Saturday. Henderson was 0 for 6 in the second half, all from beyond the arc, and he did not score as the Gators rallied for a 75-71 road victory.

On tap

Tonight’s SEC doubleheader features Florida at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m., and Missouri at Georgia, 8 p.m.

Vanderbilt, which is 10-4 at home, takes its shot at derailing No. 1 Florida, which is vying to become the first team to complete its SEC schedule unbeaten since eventual national champion Kentucky in 2012. That game will be on ESPN at Memorial Gymnasium.

The second game, on ESPNU, pits the conference’s third-place team - Georgia - against Missouri, the team projected to finish fifth by league media in the preseason. The Bulldogs opened SEC play on Jan. 8 with a 70-64 upset victory in overtime at Missouri, snapping the nation’s longest home-court winning streak at 26 games. Coach Mark Fox cried on the bench in the closing seconds the day after attending a memorial service for his father, Raymond Lewis Fox, who died of lung disease four days earlier.

Dogs’ rise

Georgia (15-11 overall, 9-5 SEC) is in sole possession of third place with four games remaining after being projected for an 11th-place finish at basketball media days.

The Bulldogs have a chance to finish twogame sweeps of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi State and LSU in its last four games.

“Obviously, to open up league play with a win, and a road win vs. a terrific team, was critical for us because it allowed us to have a winning record out of the gate, and then we followed that up with a home win,” Georgia Coach Mark Fox said. “So that was really, really big for us because it gave us some confidence moving forward.”

Missouri Coach Frank Haith said, “They’ve had a heck of a run that got started here at our place early in the year.

“They’re a really good rebounding team on both ends of the court. They get to the free-throw line 30 times a game. They have their length and they bother you on the defensive end.”

Good on Gators

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings, asked to assess why Florida is soaring this season, said the Gators are good at everything.

“They’re good at defense, they’re good at offense, they’re good at rebounding,” Stallings said. “They’re experienced. They’re tough and you can tell they have great leadership.

“There’s absolutely nothing that would make them not good. They have great guard play. They have tough, physical play up front.

They have depth.”

Stallings said he hasn’t seen a better team at playing for each other on defense during his 15 years in the SEC.

Ready ready

Mississippi State guard I.J. Ready (Little Rock Parkview), who fell as if he took an elbow to the eye from Arkansas’ Ky Madden in the final minute of the Bulldogs’ 73-69 loss on Saturday, has been cleared medically for Wednesday’s home game against Tennessee.

Bulldogs Coach Rick Ray said on Monday’s SEC teleconference said an examination showed no damage to Ready’s retina or the bone structure around his eye. Replays were inconclusive as to whether Madden’s elbow actually touched Ready. The game officials, after huddling to examine the replay, issued a “play on” decision after the huddle.

Bench boost

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings, whose seven scholarship players fell behind Auburn by 16 points in the first half on Saturday, chose to give walk-ons Carter Josephs and Nate Watkins big minutes off the bench, and the move paid off.

Josephs had nine assists and no turnovers and Watkins contributed seven points and three rebounds as the Commodores rallied for a 67-59 road victory.

“Our bench by and large was better than our starters,” Stallings said. “That hasn’t happened much, but I wasn’t going to watch that garbage that I watched the first eight or nine minutes. We were down and I said to hell with that, we’re going to put some guys in who are going to play hard.”Drive time

Kentucky did not make a jump shot in the second half or overtime of its 77-76 victory over LSU on Saturday, based on coverage by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The Wildcats made a single three-pointer, a James Young shot with 9:37 left in the first half, and had only a few jumpers the rest of the first half.

“We don’t rely on our jump shot,” Kentucky forward Julius Randle told reporters. “If we’re making jump shots and we’re making threes, that’s a plus. But that’s not our game.”

Kentucky Coach John Calipari said he kept urging his players to drive to the basket in every timeout.

Low Tide

Alabama (11-16) appears headed to its first losing season in 14 years after losing to Texas A&M and beating Missouri last week.

The Crimson Tide, picked to finish sixth in the SEC by league media, went 6-7 vs. a difficult nonconference schedule, then suffered through a streak of six losses in seven games in SEC play.

Alabama (5-9 in the SEC) ended a two-game losing streak with an 80-73 home victory on Saturday against Missouri, while playing without forward Nick Jacobs.

The Crimson Tide are in 11th place, but they are two games behind the seven teams tied for fourth at 7-7 with four games to play.

Alabama would need to win its final four regular season games to finish 9-9 in the SEC and then win at least two games in the SEC Tournament to ensure itself of a .500 overall record.

Jacobs, the team’s third-leading scorer (8.4 ppg) began a voluntary leave of absence before last week’s loss at Texas A&M, based on what Coach Anthony Grant called “a pattern of behavior and inconsistencies with his responsibilities as a student athlete” in a news release.

Quotebook “It was disappointing.

We didn’t have the competitive spirit you need to have. We didn’t

compete well enough on the defensive end.” Missouri Coach Frank Haith

on Saturday’s 80-73 loss at Alabama“There’s no such thing as overlooking an

opponent. … We’re

fighting for our lives trying to win basketball games, so we don’t get

consumed with that.”

Tennessee Coach Cuonzo

Martin on facing struggling Mississippi State

“We need to try to

find a way to stop the bleeding.”

Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy on the Rebels’ fourgame losing streak

“Every year, whether he’s playing seniors or

freshmen, you don’t

want to play them at

the end of the year.” South Carolina Coach Frank Martin on facing Kentucky on Saturday

By the numbers

5◊Difference between Alabama’s first

half scoring (42) in its 80-73 victory victory over Missouri on Saturday and its total in a 68-47 loss

7◊Teams tied for fourth place - and

the final double bye position for the SEC Tournament - with 7-7 records 11◊Number of weeks Florida has spent atop the Associated Press poll, counting this week, all since the 2002-2003 season

Game of the week ARKANSAS AT KENTUCKY, THURSDAY, 6 P.M. (ESPN) The Razorbacks have shown a pulse in recent weeks and a victory at Kentucky - a solid No. 2 team out of the SEC - coupled with a strong finish, could be the formula for the Hogs to receive an NCAA at-large berth. The Wildcats have three home losses in five years under John Calipari.

TODAY’S GAMES All times Central Florida at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m.

Missouri at Georgia, 8 p.m.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES Texas A&M at LSU, 7 p.m.

Alabama at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.

Tennessee at Mississippi St., 7 p.m.

South Carolina at Auburn, 8 p.m.

THURSDAY’S GAME Arkansas at Kentucky, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY’S GAMES Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 11 a.m.

Mississippi St. at Missouri, 12:30 p.m. Auburn at Alabama, 2 p.m.

Georgia at Arkansas, 3 p.m.

LSU at Florida, 3 p.m.

Kentucky at South Carolina, 5 p.m.

Ole Miss at Texas A&M, 5 p.m.

Sports, Pages 18 on 02/25/2014