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Thursday, March 22, 2018

SECrets: Parity makes an appearance

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C’eira Ricketts had 16 points and seven rebounds as Arkansas collected its seventh straight win—momentarily cooling the hot seat Tom Collens has been sitting on.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Arkansas University/Walt Beazley

By Mike Siroky

At this time of the season in the mighty Southeastern Conference, all the next-level teams can beat each other on a given night on a given campus.

Exhibit A is South Carolina, which won for the first time in any of the players’ lifespans at Tennessee. The Gamecocks moved back into the Top 25 – and how did they celebrate? By going to Fayetteville and losing easily, 68-47.

At this time of the season in the mighty Southeastern Conference, all the next-level teams can beat each other on a given night on a given campus.

Exhibit A is South Carolina, which won for the first time in any of the players’ lifespans at Tennessee. The Gamecocks moved back into the Top 25 – and how did they celebrate? By going to Fayetteville and losing easily, 68-47.

That puts both teams, Vanderbilt with its win over Tennessee and idle Georgia, into a foursome in third place in the toughest conference anywhere at 7-4. All are guaranteed spots in the The Big Dance.

Note, however, that Arkansas is 13-1 at home. And, more importantly, it has won seven straight in conference, the best current record. Senior C’eira Ricketts led the Razorbacks with a game-high 16 points with seven rebounds in the win over South Carolina, and classmate Ashley Daniels scored 13 and added a game-best nine rebounds. Dominique Robinson scored 12 with a six-for-six at the line.

The Gamecocks, meanwhile, remain much like a bag of microwaved popcorn. There are some fluffy successes but also some burnt opportunities in the bottom of the bag. Reach in as the season winds down and you get what you get.

“This is a big one for us and it feels really good,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “We came out confident and got the lead and you could see it in the player’s eyes. We want to finish this thing out strong, one game at a time.”

That lead was 33-17 at halftime, after a 14-3 start. The Razorbacks hit 56.5 percent in the half from the floor, which set up a coast home. A 12-5 run near the start of the second half cemented it.

South Carolina, on the other hand, was held to 35.4 percent from the floor for the game and had just one player in double figures. The Razorbacks scored 34 points in the paint and 26 off of 23 South Carolina turnovers.

Arkansas now takes the show on the road vs. Auburn on Sunday. SC is home to Florida, winners of three straight and leaders of the second-tier SEC teams, before Georgia visits next Thursday. That road remains full of speed bumps and an unlikely return to the national rankings.

But up in Knoxville, when was the last time Tennessee had an SEC home game that meant more to the Lady Vols than it did to the visiting team? Monday, Feb. 13, might be that day.

Kentucky, with a week to prepare, comes calling having already beaten UT once. More importantly, the ‘Cats are two up in the loss column after Vanderbilt won the state battle, 93-79. So the best UT can do is pull up one game back in the rear-view mirror. No league team has ever bested the Tennessee twice in the regular season, which would be something special for the Wildcats.

As for Vanderbilt, the game at Nashville was actually close. It’s a good thing the Commodores had an eight-point halftime lead, because it kept the pressure on UT. Glory Johnson, UT’s only true all-conference player this year, did all she could, with 19 points. But she fouled out with about six minutes left and Vandy took control. Meighan Simmons had a team-high 20 points and Shekinna Stricklen 17. Even in scoring, they were edged individually by these Commodores: Tiffany Clarke with 23 and Christina Foggie with 22. In addition, no Vanderbilt team has ever scored more against UT.

It is Vanderbilt’s fifth straight win and leaves the ‘Dores one shy of the magic 20-win season standard, and it’s also coach Melanie Balcomb’s second win in 23 games against Tennessee as Vandy’s coach. The Lady Vols, out of the Top 10, have lost two of three. Jasmine Lister had her first double-double with 19 points and a career-high 13 assists. The latter stat shows how Vanderbilt outhustled the once-feared UT defense. On top of that, the Commodores 55.7 percent from the field. They led by as many as 12 with 17 minutes left. UT had its one surge and tied it at 52, but Vandy drove past the Lady Vols with ease for layups with plenty of room to hit jumpers. They also outrebounded the Lady Vols, 41-27.

Foggie hit back-to-back 3s, and, with 8:43 left, it was a 13-4 run since the tie. Johnson fouled out and the Commodores just kept scoring, always ahead by more than 10.

Simmons spoke for the defeated team. “From here on out, we have to focus,” she said. “We have to bring intensity.”

Tennessee game coach Holly Warlick agreed. “Vanderbilt was better than us. They were stronger. They were smarter. They wanted it more. We weren’t highly motivated to defend inside,’’ Warlick said. “It wasn’t just one player, it was several. We’re a team that takes a lot of pride in their defense. We didn’t tonight.”

Vanderbilt hurtles right into a tiebreaker, at Georgia, on Sunday. Most years, observers would say UT could win out after Monday, maybe even including Monday. But this is not most years.

Looking Back at Thursday’s SEC Highlights: Feb. 9, 2012

  • Alabama 61 @ Mississippi 47

  • Hokey smokes. Alabama won a league game. And on the road, at Mississippi, 52-47. the first in Oxford since 2003. It is Alabama’s first SEC win this season.

    “With everything that has happened this season, this game really meant a lot and showed that if we stand together, we can be successful,” said Alabama coach Wendell Hudson. “You could tell by looking at the team that they knew we would get this done today. We learned how to play with a limited bench, playing with seven people. This is a great win for us.”

    Junior Jessica Merritt led a balanced Alabama offensive attack with 10 points. The defense shut down Ole Miss by allowing two baskets in the final two-and-a-half minutes, outrebounding the home team, 48-40 (25 offensive boards), and getting a season-best 16 steals.

    Next up, Alabama hosts LSU on Sunday. The game will serve as the Tide’s annual Power of Pink event, helping to raise awareness for breast cancer.

  • Auburn 56 @ Florida 70

  • Florida followed its leader, senior Lanita Bartley with 17 points, and upended Auburn, 70-56, and at 6-5, the Gators are barely off the conference pace. The defense forced 22 Auburn turnovers that led to 26 points and then added 13 fast-break points. The backcourt of Deana Allen, Bartley and Jaterra Bonds led the Gators early, with 27 first-half points. Allen finished with 14 and Bartley Bonds with 12 points.

    “Tonight our guards took the torch and really set the tone – the way we played defense the last two minutes of the first half really set the tone for the game,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “It was a very good win. I didn’t think that we played our best, but I think it’s a good indication when you feel that way. We did a good job of establishing ourselves in the paint with the dribble – and that makes us tough to prepare for.”

    Blanche Alverson scored 19 points for Auburn.

  • Mississippi State 49 @ LSU 53

  • Louisiana State, fresh off its Kentucky upset, kept it rolling over woeful Mississippi State, 53-49. LaSondra Barrett scored a game-high 17 points—including LSU’s last 10 points. It is the Tigers’ 400th win on their home court, the Maravich Center.

    Mississippi State dropped its fifth consecutive conference game. The Bulldogs shot 36 percent from the field.

    “We knew this was going to be a battle,” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. “They’re a well-coached team, and they get after you defensively. Obviously we did what we needed to do on the defensive end, but I was very proud of this group for their late game play and coming away with the victory.”

    Barrett scored LSU’s final 10 points from the 4:22 mark on, including four straight free throws in the closing minutes.

    “She (Barrett) was able to convert on some plays for us, but when you’re going strong to the basket and you’re commanding that type of attention, she just used her power game,” said Caldwell. “That’s the great thing about Barrett, she’s so versatile. She can play around the perimeter, but then if we need to bring her inside, we’re able to do that as well.”

    Adrienne Webb reached double figures for the fourth straight game with 10 points. “We want to make sure that Courtney Jones and LaSondra can go to distance, because we need them. They’re two of our proven late-game players.

    “LaSondra really challenged our players to get to the free throw line late in the game. We wanted to definitely get the ball inside or dribble-drive. LaSondra really put the team on her back, and I thought she did a phenomenal job setting that tone for us when we were struggling to hit the open jumpers. We struggled to make some layups. That put a little more pressure on our offense, but when you’ve got LaSondra Barrett playing that aggressively, she’s hard to guard.”

    Barrett said, “Coach didn’t want any more outside shoots. She wanted us to get to the paint and get to the foul line, and then we were in a bind so she wanted us to be more aggressive and get more paint points.

    “The last media timeout she got on us about shooting more outside shots and trying to get the ball in the paint and get paint points. That was all on my mind and I was telling myself, don’t shoot it.”

    As for her play with Jones: “Sometimes we play Batman and Robin. If Courtney’s scoring I rebound, and if I’m scoring she rebounds. We play off each other. Going in we needed rebounds, and she sacrificed her body and had the will to get the ball. We knew if we got stops on the other end we could get to the free throw line and stretch the game instead of having to worry about being tight at the end.”

Current SEC Standings

SEC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of Feb. 6, 2012)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Kentucky 10-1 .909 21-3 .873
2 Tennessee 8-3 .727 17-7 .708
3 South Carolina 7-4 .636 18-6 .750
4 Georgia 7-4 .636 18-6 .750
5 Arkansas 7-4 .636 18-5 .783
6 Vanderbilt 7-4 .636 19-5 .792
7(tie) Florida 6-5 .545 16-8 .667
7 (tie) LSU 6-5 .545 16-8 .667
9 Mississippi State 3-8 .273 13-11 .542
10 Auburn 3-9 .250 11-14 .440
11 Ole Miss 2-10 .167 12-13 .480
12 Alabama 1-10 .182 11-14 .440
Source: secdigitalnetwork.com

Coming Up

  • LSU @ Alabama

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 2:00 p.m. EST/, Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (CSS)

  • Vanderbilt @ Georgia

    When: Sunday, Feb. 129, 2012, 2:00 p.m. EST, Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga. (SEC Network)

  • Arkansas @ Auburn

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 2:30 p.m. EST, Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala. (ESPN2)

  • Ole Miss @ Mississippi State

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 3:30 p.m. EST, Humphrey Coliseum, Jackson, Miss. (FSN)

  • Florida @ South Carolina

    When:Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 5:00 p.m. EST, Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C. (ESPN2)

  • No. 7/7 Kentucky @ No. 11/11Tennessee

    When:Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn. (ESPN2)


Originally published Sat, February 11, 2012

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.