SEC Roundball Recap: Friday

Ken Cross

March 16, 2024 at 11:18 am.

Aggressive Approach Allows Auburn to Eliminate South Carolina

Auburn forward Johni Broome scored 18 points as the Tigers used depth and athleticism to defeat South Carolina, 86-55, in an SEC quarterfinal on Friday afternoon. Eleven Tigers scored on the evening and guard Denver Jones scored five points to lead the Tigers on a 13-0 run as they took a 28-14 lead with 8:18 left in the first half.

Auburn’s athleticism among its bigs kept BJ Mack and Cameron Murray-Bowles from getting comfortable inside. Mack made only 3-of-12 field goals while Murray-Bowles was 1-of-9.

The Tigers’ defense held South Carolina to 31 percent from the field as the Gamecocks only made two field goals in the last 12:30 of the first half, while the Tigers upped their lead to 46-25 at the break.

“The depth of our front line – Chaney (Johnson) and Jaylin (Williams), Johni (Broome) and Dylan (Cardwell) makes a big factor,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl.

Auburn controlled the second half after Broome scored on a lay-up to give the Tigers a 57-33 lead with 12:21 to play. He later hit a pair of threes as the biggest leads topped out at 32 late in the game on baskets by Ayden Holloway and Chaney Johnson.

“You have got to play with effort and energy,” said Pearl. “We are committed to playing 10 guys. When you play with 10 guys, look at the stat sheet at the number of guys who scored. Look at the balance. Look at all the guys that feel really good about how they are playing and contributing.”


Gators Race Past Alabama For Semifinals Appearance

Florida head coach Todd Golden has done a masterful job with the rebuilding of the Gators program in only two seasons.

He put together an outstanding group of players that fit into a solid eight-man rotation as they play well off of each other’s strengths.

Friday evening’s late matchup saw Walter Clayton, Jr., scored 23 points to lead five Gators in double figures in a 102-88 victory over 3-seed Alabama.

The Gators shot 50.8 percent from the field as they turned it into a physical battle on offense where they were able to make 31-of-36 free throws to keep the Crimson Tide at arm’s length throughout the evening.

“It was a combination of our guys executing our defensive game plan and limiting their three-point attempts and makes,” Golden commented. “Then  offensively, the way we played for each other, sharing the ball and getting downhill.”

The Gators broke the game open late in the first half by going on a 21-2 run over the last 5:24 to take a 48-33 lead at halftime.

The guard play of Zion Pullin and Tyrese Samuel inside gave the Gators versatile options once again. Pullin and Clayton were both tough for Alabama’s guards to defend as both made it to the line 11 times, each as Clayton knocked down all 11 of his free throws while Clayton made ten.

Samuel was a catalyst to start the second half as he scored 10 points in the first five minutes and helped the Gators push their lead to 62-41 with 14:59 to play.

“Even when we got the big lead in the second half, we never relaxed,” said  Golden. “We kept pushing it, kept staying aggressive, and then got to the foul line. We never really let them make it a game.”


Power Game Allows Mississippi State to Eliminate Vols

Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes share the reputation as defensive stoppers and Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs opened with solid physicality on both ends of the floor in knocking out 1-seed Tennessee, 73-56, in one SEC quarterfinal.

Tolu Smith and Cameron Matthews combined for eight points to give Mississippi State a 15-4 lead just eight minutes in and the Bulldogs never looked back in holding Tennessee to just 31 percent from the floor.

“Even this afternoon with a smiler mindset, we felt like we wanted to attack inside-out and go at Aidoo and their other bigs as much as we could,” said Bulldogs coach Chris Jans.

Mississippi State outscored Tennessee, 42-14, in the paint. Even after Vols  guard Zakai Zeigler hit a pair of threes to cut the lead to 60-48 with just under four minutes to play, DJ Jeffries hit a triple and then scored in transition off of a turnover to raise the advantage to 65-48.

Bulldogs’ duo Cam Matthews and Josh Hubbard had 18 apiece while Ziegler led all scorers with 20 points.

“We felt good about the matchup,” said Jans as Mississippi already won 77-72 over Tennessee in Starkville back in January. “We beat them and we had confidence going into this game.”

Vols coach Rick Barnes summarized Mississippi State’s perspective.

“Their plan was to drive the ball, be aggressive, and obviously play inside,” explained Barnes. “We got away from our defense being in gaps and trying to shrink the court.”


Taylor, Radford Lead Aggies past Kentucky

Texas A&M guards Wade Taylor, IV, and Tyrece Radford scored 32 and 23 points, respectively, to allow the Aggies to eliminate 2-seed Kentucky, 97-87, on Friday evening.

Taylor scored five quick points to allow A&M to post an 8-1 lead and after Kentucky had a brief 16-15 lead, Solomon Washington scored on the next possession as Texas A&M built a 48-42 lead at halftime.

Kentucky would cut into the Aggies’ lead, but Radford, Taylor, or Manny Obaseki were generally on board to dribble penetrate, and score or find an open teammate around the basket.

“We have dogs on our team that are willing to work and make sure that comes to life,” said Obaseki of Texas A&M’s aggressive nature off the dribble.

Texas A&M defended and virtually stopped Kentucky shooter Reed Sheppard, who played 32 minutes and scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. He made his last field goal with 1:36 remaining before halftime.

Taylor made 11-of-24 shots which included six threes in scoring those 32 points.

“He has an elite IQ level off the floor, but he has just as high level of an IQ as a player,” commented Aggies head coach Buzz Williams. “He understands time, score, and momentum arguably as well as anyone I have been around.”

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