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SEC Headlines – 1/26/11 Part Two

1.  Erving Walker’s “miracle” 30-foot three-pointer made up for two key missed free throws in Florida’s 104-91 double-overtime win at Georgia last night.

2.  Chandler Parsons took over in the second overtime.

3.  The loss was Georgia’s second in a row to an East foe at home.

4.  Mark Fox said he was proud of his team’s effort last night, “but we’ve got to win the heartbreaker.” 

5.  This writer believes “the sting from this one will linger for a while” for the Dawgs.

6.  A healthy Trinton Sturdivant is looking forward to spring practice in Athens.

7.  The mayor of Lexington has called for a study to determine the feasibility of redesigning and renovating Rupp Arena.  (In other words, he’s not onboard with the idea of a new downtown arena just yet.)

8.  Here’s a by-the-numbers look at UK’s basketball players this season.

9.  Bruce Pearl says “Tennessee is going to regain its identity for its toughness and physicality.”

10.  Festus Ezeli is the SEC’s most improved player this season.  By far.

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What We Learned About SEC Basketball Last Night

A few things were learned during last night’s SEC hoops contests.  Here’s your recap:

* It’s a lot more fun to watch games from the SEC East than the SEC West.  By now you’ve seen/read/heard just how terrible the West is.  Last night’s action provided more proof as Arkansas built up a huge lead on a very bad Auburn team — NCAA numbers guru Jerry Palm says the Tigers might be the worst major conference team in a generation — before letting AU climb back into things late.  John Pelphrey’s team went on a 21-1 run at one point to open up a 55-31 lead.  Yawn.  But Florida’s 104-91 double-overtime win at Georgia provided a stark contrast to Arkansas’ 73-64 victory.  The Gators and Dawgs were nip and tuck the entire way.  The math is pretty simple when it comes to East versus West this season: better teams = better games. 

* Florida appears to be coming into its own.  The Gators have now won three in a row and eight of their last nine.  Their only loss in that stretch was a three-point defeat at the hands of South Carolina.  More importantly, Billy Donovan’s team now owns road wins over East rivals Georgia and Tennessee.  Last night, Erving Walker and Chandler Parsons came through with 24 points and 12 boards, respectively.  Kenny Boynton also poured in 24.  But it was Walker who nailed a 30-footer to send the game into its second overtime.  The Gators are firing on all cylinders right now.  Next stop: Starkville on Saturday.

* Georgia just might not be ready for primetime.  We said that last Tuesday when Mark Fox’s team dropped a home game to Tennessee.  Now they’ve dropped another one at Stegeman Coliseum.  That’s not the way you win your division.  In fact, toss in a loss at Vandy and the Dawgs are just 1-3 versus their East rivals (with the lone win coming at home over Kentucky in their SEC opener).  UGA has lost three of its last five games.  “It was a devastating loss,” Travis Leslie said after last night’s overtime defeat.  “We just have to keep our heads up and keep fighting for it.”  Georgia kept fighting last night.  They erased an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation to force overtime and then built a lead in the extra period… only to see Walker drop his 30-foot three-pointer to extend the game (and ultimately doom the Dawgs) once more.

* For as many struggles as Arkansas has had this year, the Razorbacks are still 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the league.  In other words — they’re actually in decent shape in the West.  More remarkably, they’re now 12-0 in Fayetteville on the season.  Too bad there are so many empty seats around Bud Walton Arena these days ’cause the Hogs are playing pretty good basketball on their home court.

* Auburn may be AU-ful, but at least they’re not quitting.  Tony Barbee’s undermanned squad just doesn’t boast much firepower.  Against LSU, they had a six-point half.  Really.  Against Florida, the Tigers scored 40 for the game.  Last night they went more than 11 minutes without a bucket to open the second half.  That’s plain dreadful.  But still, down 55-31, Auburn went on a 33-15 run to climb to within six points in the final minute.  They’ve lost six games in a row and are winless in SEC play, but they still show signs of fight.  Credit them and their new coach for that much, at least.  Now, how long they’ll continue to fight?  That’s anyone’s guess.

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SEC Headlines – 1/24/11

1.  Arkansas’ $35 million football operations center is about to be put into the hands of the school’s trustees.

2.  So why is Ole Miss a better basketball team when it turns the ball over?  Andy Kennedy has an idea.

3.  Jeremiah Masoli has put his graduate school work on hold to prepare for the NFL draft.  Wow, it’s almost like he was just a rent-a-player for the season.  Whodathunkit?

4.  Mississippi State’s Dee Bost the Bulldogs are “not worried right now.”  Has he checked his team’s RPI ranking?

5.  Jacksonville Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew took a shot at Jay Cutler and Urban Meyer during yesterday’s NFC Championship Game.

6.  Mark Fox has made Georgia basketball fun again.

7.  If Kentucky wants a high NCAA Tournament seed the Cats will need to win the SEC title.

8.  Bruce Pearl — who’ll be finishing off his SEC suspension over the next couple of weeks — says he might tweak Tennessee’s rotation.

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SEC Headlines – 1/12/11 Part Two

1.  Florida needed overtime but the Gators won their first game in Knoxville since 2005 81-57 last night.

2.  On an off-the-court note, here’s a excellent story on how Anthony Grant, John Pelphrey and Billy Donovan have all become closer… through the loss of a child.

3.  Florida’s football team finished unranked for the first time in 20 years.

4.  Mark Richt has given linebacker Marcus Dowtin — one of the Dawgs’ leading tacklers the last two years — an unconditional release following the news that he’d been arrested last spring… and never told his coach.

5.  After spending a season ripping Brett Favre — and sounding like a bitter old man — Fran Tarkenton is now ripping Richt – and sounding like a bigger old man.  Now get off his lawn!

6.  Bad weather forced UGA’s basketball team to bus its way to Nashville for tonight’s game with Vandy.

7.  Terrence Jones went off for 35 points to lead Kentucky to a 78-54 win over Auburn last night.

8.  Following the Enes Kanter ruling, UK president Lee Todd will ask the NCAA for an explanation of what European players can and cannot do.

9.  Not understanding that fans never want to hear the following, Joker Phillips said yesterday that his Wildcats are “not that far away.”  (That might be true, but fans never want to hear that after a 6-7 season.)

10.  Fresh off a win over Vanderbilt, Darrin Horn takes his team into Tuscaloosa tonight.

11.  Tennessee’s offense fell apart in an overtime loss to Florida last night.

12.  That’s the same old story for a team that doesn’t have a scorer to step up at the end of games.

13.  UT won’t have an easy time climbing out of an 0-2 SEC hole.

14.  Vanderbilt isn’t panicking heading into tonight’s game with Georgia.

15.  Several Commodores are still stinging from Saturday’s loss at South Carolina.

16.  Kevin Stallings says Mark Fox has done a good job, but Dennis Felton left him some good players.

17.  When it comes to college football, there’s the SEC and everybody else…

18.  But the SEC is off to a rough start in basketball.

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Instantaneous Ill-Informed Roundball Wrapup: Temple Owls 65, Georgia Bulldogs 58

Content provided by Dawg Sports.

As the title of this series of postings implies, I am largely woefully ignorant about basketball beyond the basics that are obvious to anyone who has ever been to a game and/or seen the movie “Hoosiers.” Also, I’m back home after spending Thanksgiving Day at my in-laws’ house, where the cat dander aggravated my allergies and left me feeling a little under the weather. On top of that, the holidays have thrown off my children’s sleep schedule, so they both went to bed late tonight, as a result of which I saw literally about a minute’s worth of game action in Georgia’s loss to Temple in the Old Spice Classic. In other words, feel free to take this with several grains of salt, and to rip it apart in the comments; in fact, I’d appreciate it if someone could convince me I’m wrong.

There is absolutely no reason Georgia should not be good in basketball. Bulldog basketball is today approximately in the same position that Florida football was in two decades ago: all the pieces of the puzzle were there, so much so that the program’s singular lack of success over the long haul wasn’t just curious, but was downright baffling. The Red and Black are the sleeping giants of the hardwood.

Nevertheless, one evening after absolutely handing the Fighting Irish the game, the Hoop Dogs trailed Temple by two at the break before being outscored 34-29 by the Owls after intermission. Travis Leslie, Gerald Robinson, and Trey Thompkins combined for 43 points; the rest of the squad contributed fifteen. While the Athenians’ free throw shooting improved to 70 per cent (14 of 20), Georgia shot under 40 per cent from the field (21 of 54) and made only two of eleven three-point tries. Although dissatisfaction with his starters prompted Mark Fox to pull his first team off the floor, the increased opportunities for the reserves did not lead to the bench contributing more than three assists, one steal, or six points. The backups hit only two of a dozen field goals and no shots from beyond the arc. In Stegeman Coliseum, as in David Lynch’s “Dune,” the sleeper must awaken, but all I’m hearing at the moment is snoring.

During the course of the hiring process that produced Mark Fox—a hiring process that went about as smoothly as the hiring process that produced Ray Goff two decades earlier; which is to say, not at all—I advocated hiring our Lon Kruger. That is, since we knew we weren’t going to go out and get the guy who could take the Bulldogs to the promised land, we had to go out and get the guy who was willing to accept the challenge of taking charge of the program with the weakest basketball tradition in the Southeastern Conference, which has not historically been known as a basketball conference, and making Georgia relevant.

Mark Fox represents a clear upgrade over Dennis Felton, and I believe he will be the Lon Kruger who makes the Red and Black relevant enough that, five or six years from now, Greg McGarity will be able to replace him with the Athens equivalent of Billy Donovan. Relevance, though, is about the best I am prepared to expect at this point. I hope to be persuaded otherwise, but, quite frankly, I argued on Monday night that Mark Fox would be an ideal choice to deliver the pregame pep talk prior to tomorrow night’s gridiron showdown with Georgia Tech. After the Old Spice Classic, I retract that suggestion as a bad idea. As evidenced by the fact that I have slogged through the duty of producing content for a Bulldog weblog on nearly a daily basis through three crummy, crummy years for University of Georgia athletics, I am no fair weather fan, but, while I like Mark Fox, I see several glass ceilings above this basketball program, and I question his ability to break through any of them beyond the first one.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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Instantaneous Ill-Informed Roundball Wrapup: Georgia Bulldogs 61, St. Louis Billikens 59

Content provided by Dawg Sports.

The only thing I knew about St. Louis University athletics when I woke up this morning was something I learned while researching Fighting Like Cats and Dogs; namely, former Clemson head football coach Eddie Cochems left Fort Hill after a single season to take over the SLU program, and, on September 5, 1906, Coach Cochems’s Billikens threw the first legal forward pass in college football history in a game against Carroll College.

That is neither here nor there, really, but it sure beats telling you about the early portion of Saturday night’s Georgia-St. Louis basketball tilt. Mark Fox’s Hoop Dogs once again got off to a slow start on the road, but they closed the gap late before tying it up inside the final 90 seconds. The Red and Black finally grabbed the lead in the last minute of the contest and held on to card a harrowing 61-59 victory.

All told, the Bulldogs sank 38 of their 68 shots, going 23 of 44 (52.3%) from the field, three of six (50.0%) from beyond the arc, and 12 of 18 (66.7%) from the free throw line. The Billikens made 62.5 per cent of their one-point shots (10 of 16), 45.5 per cent of their two-point shots (20 of 44), and 52.9 per cent of their three-point shots (9 of 17). Although both teams turned the ball over 17 times, Georgia transformed those takeaways into 16 points, whereas St. Louis notched only ten. The home team’s bench contributed 17 points to the six added by the visitors’ reserves.

Travis Leslie, Connor Nolte, Jeremy Price, Gerald Robinson, and Dustin Ware each spent at least 30 minutes on the court, with Leslie and Price grabbing six and seven rebounds, respectively. Over the course of the evening, the Fox Hounds out-rebounded their hosts 30-23 en route to a stirring last-second triumph. All those close losses on the road last year tempered this team, which has bought into what its head coach is selling, enabling the squad to cross that fine line separating narrow defeats from narrow victories. A year ago, Mark Fox put the excitement back into Georgia basketball; it’s early, but, so far this year, he has turned his band of lovable losers into a unit that finds a way to win.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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UGA’s Thompkins Injures Ankle

Georgia could be without the SEC preseason Player of the Year for as much as six weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Forward Trey Thompkins suffered “a pretty significant” injury according to Bulldogs coach Mark Fox.  The sprain will definitely keep Thompkins off the floor for two weeks, at the minimum.

“It’s a high ankle sprain, which is the worst kind.  It’s fairly severe and it couldn’t happen at a worse time for him and our team.  But injuries are a part of the game and we’re going to have to rally the troops and adjust.”

Thompkins was UGA’s leading scorer and rebounder last season.  It’s a rough setback for a program that was feeling energized for the first time in years.

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