SEC Tournament Notebook Day 1 – First Session
The 2011 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament got underway Thursday afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Downtown Atlanta.
The first match up of the day featured the home state Georgia Bulldogs, fighting for a possible at-large berth in next week's NCAA tournament, facing the Auburn Tigers.
The second match up in the initial session pitted Ole Miss against South Carolina.
Thursday night's slate featured contests between Tennessee and Arkansas followed by the finale of the first day's action with LSU taking on Vanderbilt.
Georgia 69 Auburn 51 F
Auburn head coach Tony Barbee knew his first season on the plains would be a difficult one.
The Georgia Bulldogs ended the Tigers season in the opening game of the 2011 SEC tournament, wearing them down on their way to a 69-51 victory.
Georgia's win now puts them in what most bracketolegy experts see as an NCAA tournament elimination game between the 'Dawgs and Alabama on Friday.
Bulldogs big man Trey Thompkins, finally healthy after battling injuries all season, showed off his tantalizing skills, burning the Tigers in the post and from the 3=point line on his way to a 22-point, 12 rebound performance.
Auburn, on the other hand, finished Barbee's rookie campaign with a dismal 11-20 mark. However, Barbee feels that this team, full of youth and inexperience, laid the foundation for a program that is headed in the right direction.
"I'm proud of the way my kids fought all year long," Barbee said. "What could have been a long and difficult year because of the wins and losses that can separate and divide a team, this team stayed together all season long. They fought all the way until the end so I'm proud of them for that."
The Tigers return all five starters next season, plus two potential impact transfers in Varez Ward and Noel Johnson and injured starter Frankie Sullivan. Add in a highly touted recruiting class and Barbee's main objective is building for the future.
"The main focus for this year was laying the foundation for next year and take another step in the building of the program," Barbee said.
Ole Miss 66 South Carolina 55 F
First-team all-SEC performer Chris Warren was determined to win a game at this year's SEC tournament in his last go-around.
After making early exits the past three seasons, the senior willed the Ole Miss past the South Carolina Gamecocks 66-55 in the second match up on Thursday.
In a game filled with runs by both squads, Warren hit clutch buckets to squash Gamecock runs in the second half en-route to a team high 20-point effort.
Rebels big men Reginald Buckner and Terrence Henry combined for 24 points and 19 rebounds to help Ole Miss win the battle in the paint.
"I just got good looks," Warren said. "In the creases, if I can get by my man, it will be a two-on-one, and I either dish it off to Reggie (Buckner) or lay it up."
The Rebels advance to face Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy knows that the crowd will be decidedly in the Wildcats favor.
"And for us, we know there's nothing like Big Blue Nation," Kennedy said. "I was saying this before. I've lived in Birmingham, I played at UAB, coached at UAB, and so I've experienced Alabama football fans. I lived in Cincinnati for five years, so I've seen Buckeye Nation. And for my money, nothing can touch Kentucky basketball fans."
Tennessee 74 Arkansas 68 F
Tennessee fended off a scrappy Arkansas squad, overcoming a 16-0 Razorback run in the second half to hold for 74-68 victory in the first game of the Thursday night session.
Tobias Harris led the Volunteers scoring 20 points, and Tennessee 's bench outscored Arkansas' bench 31-6 to propel the Vols into the quarterfinals against SEC East regular season champion Florida.
After trailing by a dozen at halftime, Arkansas came out hot, shooting 67% from the field and 50% from 3-point range, but it wasn't enough to overcome their sloppy first half play.
The Volunteers now try to enhance their NCAA tournament chances with a third chance to beat the top-ranked squad in the league.
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl knows that his squad will have to play a full forty minutes to upset the Gators.
"The price is big because they are going to be seeded well in the tournament and they're a rival.," Pearl said. "Florida's been a very competitive series for us. But the fact that we played them close really only means that they're going to be very ready."
Vanderbilt 62 LSU 50 F
Despite playing without leading scorer John Jenkins, Vanderbilt overpowered hapless LSU 62-50 in the nightcap of opening-round action in the 2011 SEC Tournament.
With Jenkins being a late scratch due to a toe injury, fellow guard Jeffrey Taylor stepped his game up a notch leading the Commodores with a double-double 21-point, 12 rebound effort.
LSU ends its season at 11-21, including losing 14 of their last 15 games and going 3-13 in SEC play.
The Commodores move on to face Mississippi State on Friday night in what will be a rematch of last year's SEC tournament semifinal won by the Bulldogs 62-52.
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings is taking all the necessary precautions with Jenkins and his injury.
"He could have played today if we had gotten in a situation where we felt like we had to have him," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said of Jenkins. "We'll have shoot-around (Friday) and go and look and see how he's feeling and if he's any better."