SEC Basketball Scores
Tuesday, February 5
- Arkansas 80, Florida 69
- Kentucky 77 South Carolina 55
Wednesday, February 6
- Ole Miss 93 Mississippi State 75
- Georgia 68 Tennessee 62
- Auburn 49 Alabama 37
- LSU 57 Vanderbilt 56
Thursday, February 7
- Texas A&M 70 Missouri 68
Saturday, February 9
- Vanderbilt 67 Arkansas 49
- Kentucky 72, Auburn 62
- Missouri 98 Ole Miss 79
- Florida 83 Mississippi State 58
- Alabama 60 LSU 57
- Georgia 52 Texas A&M 46
Sunday, February 10
- Tennessee 66 South Carolina 61
It was the kind of result that comes out of the blue, the outcome that ambushes all the pundits and leaves experts speechless. It’s one thing when a No. 2 team loses to a No. 5 or No. 6 team, the general kind of scenario that’s been witnessed in the Big Ten Conference this season. It’s not all that shocking when a highly ranked team gets knocked off by another member of the top 25 or by a proven program whose team is going to make the NCAA tournament in 2013. It’s another matter altogether when a top team is bumped off by a middling member of a second-rate conference. The Southeastern Conference, sadly but undeniably, is a second-tier league this season, and so when the Arkansas Razorbacks hosted the No. 2 Florida Gators this past Tuesday, the notion of an upset did not register very prominently in many people’s minds. Those who have closely followed this college basketball season were not expecting much from the underdog. Florida, in command of its powers and slaughtering SEC foes left and right, figured to impose its will on the Hogs, who didn’t look anything like an NCAA tournament team through the first two and a half months of the season.
This is why games are played on hardwood, not paper.
Arkansas, a team that entered Tuesday’s tilt 0-4 on the road in the SEC, had lost only once at home all season, in a pattern similar the 2011-2012 team that formed a Jekyll-and-Hyde identity based solely on location. Basketball is basketball, but for Arkansas, the gymnasium seems to matter. Against Florida, though, the Hogs figured to lose. They played Syracuse close in December but fell by nine points. Florida had established itself as a better team than Syracuse, and was meeting Arkansas at a later point in the season, when rotations are more established and younger players have a better idea of what they need to do on the floor. If you asked a panel of 15 college basketball pundits, you probably would have gotten “Florida by 10 to 15 points” as a majority response.
That didn’t happen. Arkansas shredded a Florida defense that had allowed more than 60 points to just one SEC foe over the first month of conference play. The Hogs hit 49 percent of their shots, destroying Florida not at its weakest point, but its strongest one. Arkansas’s unproven guards did not falter in the face of Florida’s rugged man-to-man defense. The Razorbacks turned the ball over just eight times while accumulating 19 assists. Arkansas developed considerable flow in its halfcourt offense and was able to run the floor after forcing 16 turnovers from the rattled Gators. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson loves to play at a fast pace and run a lot of players in and out of the lineup, precisely because the presence of more bodies removes the need for any one player to log extended minutes. No Arkansas player registered more than 28 minutes on Tuesday, but nine players gained at least 13 minutes. Some familiar faces contributed to the Hogs’ win, as B.J. Young scored 13 points and handed out 5 assists while collecting 4 rebounds. Marshawn Powell scored 11, grabbed 6 boards, dished out 3 dimes, and claimed 2 steals. However, the X-factor performance that really lifted Arkansas came from untested guard Michael Qualls. A freshman who had been getting minimal playing time to this point in the season, Qualls scored 11 points in 25 active minutes. He gained 4 rebounds and didn’t commit a single turnover. Excellence from proven and unproven sources made the difference for Arkansas, and as a result, Florida is no longer in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The other big game of the week came on Saturday, as Missouri stopped Ole Miss in a matchup that was extremely important for both teams. Ole Miss and Mizzou have struggled in recent weeks, so the loser of this game – while still probably in the NCAAs if the selections were made today – was going to fall to the good side of the bubble. Ole Miss became that team, as Missouri played its best game of the SEC season. The Tigers’ energy and clarity were in evidence for 40 minutes, and now, Ole Miss has a lot of work to do if it wants to make the NCAAs.
The other main stories from the past week in the SEC were negative ones: Alabama lost at Auburn to severely hurt its NCAA hopes, while Arkansas – following its win over Florida – got crushed at Vanderbilt to move to 0-5 on the road in the SEC. There’s no way Arkansas can get to the Big Dance if it can’t win road games.
By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer