Day 2 of the SEC tournament got off to a thrilling start on Thursday with eighth-seeded Missouri needing two overtimes to beat No. 9 Texas A&M, 91-83.
The marathon game set a tough act to follow for the day's remaining three games at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The top four seeds for this tournament—Florida, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee—remain idle until Friday's quarterfinals. They await the four winners from Thursday's action.
The schedule information for Friday and a recap of Thursday's games can be found below.
|Game #||Team 1||Score||Team 2|
|Game 3||No. 8 Missouri||91-83||No. 9 Texas A&M|
|Game 4||No. 13 South Carolina||71-69||No. 5 Arkansas|
|Game 5||No. 10 Alabama||56-68||No. 7 LSU|
|Game 6||No. 14 Mississippi State||66-78||No. 6 Ole Miss|
|7||Fri., 3/14||1 p.m.||(8) Missouri||(1) Florida|
|8||Fri., 3/14||TBD||(13) South Carolina||(4) Tennessee|
|9||Fri., 3/14||7 p.m.||(7) LSU||(2) Kentucky|
|10||Fri., 3/14||TBD||(6) Ole Miss||(3) Georgia|
CBSSports.com provides a live bracket for the SEC tournament.
Missouri 91, Texas A&M 83
After blowing an eight-point lead at the half, the Tigers won a battle of perseverance in this double-overtime thriller.
Missouri got off to an early lead thanks in large part to the play of guard Earnest Ross.
In the first half, the senior had 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. ESPN's Edward Aschoff added his thoughts on Ross' fast start:
#Mizzou's Earnest Ross had 17 points in 18 minutes in the first half. Yeah that's pretty good if you ask me— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) March 13, 2014
Despite losing his blazing scoring touch for the rest of the game, he finished with 24 points and this was a strong turnaround for Ross. In his four games leading up to this one, he had combined to score just 24 points.
But on Thursday, he led the Tigers to a 34-26 lead at halftime.
The difference in the first half was not shooting. Texas A&M shot 40.0 percent from the floor and Missouri 41.7.
Missouri was far more active in the half, though. The Tigers grabbed eight more rebounds and had six steals to the Aggies' two.
That changed in the second half as Texas A&M began chipping away at the lead. Jamal Jones caught fire to ignite the Aggies.
Mike McCoy, of ABC's affiliate KRHD, shares the following insight, which adds to Jones' tremendous performance:
For Jamal Jones to play after he was "the sickest he has ever been" last night has 8 pts in 16 mins. #Aggies— Mike McCoy (@McCoyKRHDSports) March 13, 2014
Alex Caruso, who had 11 points in the first half, took the torch from Jones and kept the Aggies rolling. The sophomore guard finished as the game's high scorer with 28 points.
Despite the offensive outpouring from their guards, though, Texas A&M couldn't keep Missouri down.
With under a minute to go, Jabari Brown made two free throws for Missouri to tie the game at 68. Both teams had a possession to take the lead and both failed.
The first overtime was a back-and-forth battle, but it looked like Missouri was going to pull it out. Then, the Aggies' Blake McDonald stole the ball from Jordan Clarkson with under 10 seconds to go. Caruso made an easy bucket to tie the game at 77 and eventually send it to the second overtime.
Foul trouble was beginning to take its toll on both teams, and Brown and Clarkson both fouled out in overtime for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Antwan Space, Jordan Green, Kourtney Roberson and Dylan Johns all fouled out for the Aggies.
All of this left the Aggies struggling to score and allowed Mizzou to pull away early in the second overtime and hang on for the victory.
Missouri now advances to take on No. 1 Florida—which, of course, is terrible news for the Tigers. Florida went undefeated in conference play and handled Missouri by 10 in their lone meeting this year. On top of that, the Tigers have to play the rested Gators after surviving this marathon game, which should certainly play at least some factor.
If the Tigers can take hope from anything, it is the notion that the Gators might have their focus set elsewhere. Even if Florida should lose, the Gators still stand an excellent shot of landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, so there's always a risk they're looking ahead.
South Carolina 71, Arkansas 69
South Carolina is in the midst of an improbable run. The No. 13 seed beat Auburn on Wednesday and now have knocked out No. 5 seed Arkansas.
To put this into perspective, the Gamecocks mustered just two wins away from home during the entire regular season. They have doubled that total in the postseason.
South Carolina freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 17 points.
This game was close throughout. At 42.6 percent shooting from the floor, Arkansas out shot South Carolina by just over four percent. The Gamecocks atoned for that by a superior performance on the boards.
The Gamecocks grabbed more offensive and defensive rebounds than their opponent and wound up with 15 more total rebounds. Forward Mindaugas Kacinas led South Carolina's rebounding effort by snagging 10 rebounds.
South Carolina took the lead for good at 70-69 on a free throw from Brenton Williams. The Gamecocks then missed 3-of-4 free throws the remainder of the game and left the door open for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks couldn't barge through. Rashad Madden and Bobby Portis both had decent looks at the rim over Arkansas' final two possessions, but neither could convert.
South Carolina advances to face No. 4 Tennessee in Friday's quarterfinals.
The two met just once in the regular season and Tennessee spanked them, 72-53. The Volunteers hosted that game.
Meanwhile, there is a good chance that Arkansas' NCAA tournament hopes were dealt a fatal blow with this loss.
LSU 68, Alabama 56
Supreme shooting and a stellar defensive effort spurred the Tigers to an easy 68-56 victory over the Crimson Tide to advance on Thursday. Four LSU players scored in double figures, led by forward Shavon Coleman's 15, which all came from five three-pointers.
Tigers guard Tim Quarterman averaged 2.2 points per game on the season before this contest, but the freshman stepped up with 12 key points off the bench in just 12 minutes. Quarterman's hot start helped LSU jump out to an 11-point halftime lead.
Matthew Harris of the Advocate praised Quarterman and Coleman for sparking the team:
Shavon Coleman and Tim Quarterman have been your catalysts for #LSU's runs. Again, Johnny Jones will gladly take that.— Matthew Harris (@MHarrisAdvocate) March 13, 2014
Alabama leading scorer Trevor Releford closed out his senior year in disappointing fashion, netting 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting as the Tide shot 36 percent as a team, compared to the Tigers' 50 percent. Coach Anthony Grant discussed how much the Tide would miss Releford, and noted his significant contribution to the fledgling program, per AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky:
Anthony Grant: We'll miss (Trevor Releford) greatly. We've got to build off the foundation he laid as a program.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) March 14, 2014
Since Releford was the only player to average double figures for Grant's squad this season, it makes sense that the Tide were unable to execute well enough to keep up with their conference rivals.
A balanced effort from the Tigers allowed a rather youthful team to take a big step forward into the SEC quarterfinals. Confidence is everything at this juncture of the year, and it will be interesting to see if LSU can keep it up.
For the Tide, it's back to the drawing board and time to focus on next season, as their 13-19 final record won't be good enough to garner any postseason invitations. Grant acknowledged how much of an impact Releford had in Tuscaloosa, so the key is to build off that and attempt to gain ground in the SEC next year.
LSU will face an extremely talented but inconsistent Kentucky team in the quarterfinals. Much of the pressure rests on the Wildcats to show signs of life as they've failed to meet massive expectations this season. The Tigers can play loose and potentially push their way to the semifinals.
Ole Miss 78, Mississippi State 66
This battle between Magnolia State rivals saw the Rebels storm back from a nine-point halftime deficit and crush the Bulldogs in the final 20 minutes to lock up a convincing victory.
Mercurial guard Marshall Henderson has an eternal green light in his mind's eye, and he was not shy to fire away in this contest, jacking up 19 three-pointers and making seven of them en route to 21 points. Henderson's teammate, Jarvis Summers, was more efficient for Ole Miss in matching that output on 7-of-17 shooting.
The senior Henderson was clearly pumped to play what could have been his last game, and his antics drew the ire of some, as ESPN's Edward Aschoff observed:
Marshall Henderson just banged the scorers' table and Ole Miss fans went nuts. Then everyone else booed— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) March 14, 2014
Mississippi State didn't capitalize enough at the free-throw line, sinking just 21 out of 33 attempts to go with 17 turnovers and cold shooting in the second half. That was enough to end its season as the Bulldogs dropped to 14-19.
Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger noted how hot MSSU was to start the SEC tournament from the field, but coach Rick Ray's squad just flat-out ran out of steam against the impassioned Rebels led by Henderson:
So MSU shot 44 percent from the field this season. It's shooting 58 percent in 60 mins in Atlanta. #DomeSweetDome— Michael Bonner (@MikeBBonner) March 14, 2014
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said that the second half was the best he's seen from his players offensively in quite some time, per the Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger:
Andy Kennedy: "It was probably the best half offensively we have played in a while."— Hugh Kellenberger (@HKellenbergerCL) March 14, 2014
Hard to argue with that. Craig Sword and Fred Thomas scored 16 apiece for Mississippi State but inflicted much of their damage early on in leading the Bulldogs to 44 first-half points. Sword also accounted for seven turnovers on his own, which was a big reason why the game slipped away.
It looked as though Mississippi State was going to continue its spirited run through the conference tournament in jumping out to the early lead. Unfortunately, sloppy play and a lack of success from the charity stripe ended its season on Thursday, and the Bulldogs must pull in better talent to be more competitive moving forward.
Everything seemed to go right for the victors after the intermission, and now Ole Miss will meet another Bulldogs team in Georgia during Friday's quarterfinals. For a team that leans on Henderson as a leader and thrives on his emotion, the ingredients are there for the Rebels to advance and keep their outside chance at an NCAA tournament bid alive.