IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Gators use Rebounding, Transition To Outlast Georgia in SEC Opener

Ken Cross

March 15, 2024 at 12:40 pm.

NASHVILLE –  Walter Clayton, Jr., scored 22 points and Tyrese Samuel and Will Richard totaled 17 each as the Florida Gators overcame a fierce Georgia effort in defeating the Bulldogs, 85-80, in the nightcap at the SEC Tournament.

Jalen DeLoach scored four points in a 9-2 run that gave Georgia a 30-24 lead midway through the first half as the frenetic point guard play from Jalen Hill helped the Bulldogs maintain that lead into a 37-34 lead after 20 minutes.

Hill’s play off the dribble kept the Bulldogs in position even after Florida finally gained the lead once again after Samuel scored in the lane to give them a 49-48 lead with 13:10 to play.

“Once we were able to get some stops and clean rebounds, it allowed us to get out in transition a little bit,” commented Gators head coach Todd Golden. “Ended up making a few free throws for that stretch which allowed us to take the lead.”

It was an interesting night for Samuel as he finished only 9-of-23 at the free throw line. Georgia seemed to create contact with him in the lane so he couldn’t use his diversity of moves around the rim.

After Noah Thomasson made a triple to cut Florida’s lead to 53-52, the Gators used six points from Walter Clayton to push it back to 66-58.

Georgia threatened Florida once again as a Walter Clayton three gave Florida a 71-68 lead and the Gators would never trail again.

Riley Kugel made six free throws in the clutch to allow the Gators to hold off the Bulldogs as Florida took three games vs. Georgia on the season.

“I’ve always had the mindset of just next man up,” said Clayton. “Obviously, things happen and you have to play through them.”

The Gators will challenge Alabama in tomorrow’s Game 4.

 

Mississippi State Uses Strong Second Half to Stop LSU

The Mississippi State Bulldogs knew they had to change the script at halftime as they trailed LSU, 29-22, while not scoring from the floor for the last 7:42 of the first half.

LSU had amassed 12 turnovers in that first half, but the Bulldogs were not able to use that to their advantage.

“Yeah, we were struggling,” said MSU head coach Chris Jans, of the first half. “We had seven baskets, seven turnovers. That’s not a good recipe to win games.”

The Bulldogs’ defense made it’s impact in the second half in holding LSU to 30.8 percent from the floor. An immediate 14-2 run saw Shakeel Moore finish that run with a layup while Josh Hubbard scored six of his game-high 24 points.

Mississippi State outscored LSU 48-31 in the second half en route to the 70-60 win.

Big-man Tolu Smith was held scoreless in the first half, but scored on a slam dunk and a pair of free throws to turn a six-point deficit into a 36-34 lead before Mississippi State pushed their lead to 52-43 midway through the second stanza to finish off the win.

“All of our guys put confidence in each other,” said Hubbard, who has turned into a solid leader as a freshman. “We were all positive. We were prepared for the game.”

The Bulldogs will face SEC Champion No.5 Tennessee on Friday afternoon at 12 CST.

 

Run Allows Gamecocks to Overtake Razorbacks

Khalif Battle and Makhi Mitchell became a furious inside-out combination in the first half as they pushed Arkansas into a 35-32 lead over South Carolina with 2:15 left in the first half.

However, the Gamecocks were able to put together a 16-0 run over about 6:30 which ended the first half and extended into the second. Ta’lon Cooper put the exclamation point on that run with a score in the lane with 16:43 left in the game to give the Gamecocks a 48-35 lead.

A huge key for USC was holding Tramon Mark to only two points as he found just four shots in 35 minutes.

“Our main thing was defense,” stated Ta’lon Cooper. “We’re a defensive-minded team. Coach came in and told us we needed to get stops. The more stops we got, we deflated them. Our offense is going to work for itself if we play defense.”

South Carolina forward Collin Murray-Boyles led all scorers with 24 points  while the Gamecocks scored 17 points off of 14 Razorbacks turnovers.

“I thought our guys had a good effort from start to finish pretty much,” said   coach Lamont Paris. “We had a couple of lulls here and there, but I just thought it was a tremendous effort the way we shared the ball, our overall energy and how we played.”

 

Aggies Outlast Rebels in Consummate Rock Fight

Texas A&M outfought Ole Miss, 80-71, in one of the most physical battles across the country on Thursday.

Tyrese Radford nailed a three off the left baseline and gave Texas A&M a 61-48 lead, but Matt Murrell put the cap on a quick 10-0 Rebels run that cut the deficit to 61-58.

The Aggies held Mississippi off by making 13-of-16 free throws down the stretch to secure the win and a berth against Kentucky tomorrow evening.

Wade Taylor led the Aggies with 20 points as they scored 21 points on 21 offensive rebounds. Texas A&M also outscored Ole Miss, 36-26, in the paint while the Rebs had a 22-3 advantage off the fast break.

Solomon Williams played a key role for the Aggies in the second half as he kept them motivated with his energy in scoring nine of his 14 points while hitting a three with 11:23 remaining to give A&M a 46-41 lead.

“I think ‘Solo’ has that energy and that motor, even at practice,” said Taylor. “When that impacts the game, it helps the team, helps the staff, just get us on the right track.”