March 9, 2007
SEC Tournament Notebook: Thursday
The 'Tide (20-11, 7-10 SEC) looked disinterested in being in Atlanta, and likely wiped away any chance of making the NCAA Tournament with a poor performance against Kentucky in the day's first game.
'Bama's preseason all-American point guard Ronald Steele continues to suffer from an ankle injury he suffered two months ago, and coach Mark Gottfried did not play Steele in the second half.
Gottfried did absolutely nothing to get open shots for his players. Alabama tried to get the ball inside to Richard Hendrix and Jermaero Davidson and let them operate against UK's front line. The pair got nothing easy inside, and seemed content to sling one-handed shots at the rim while in heavy traffic.
Meanwhile, there was no sense of urgency as 'Bama trailed down the stretch, and time was running out for them to make any sort of run.
UK's Ramel Bradley pitched in with a couple of big 3-pointers as the 'Cats began to establish a substantial lead early in the second half.
Kentucky's Randolph Morris didn't seem like much of a factor, but at the end of the day had 17 points and 11 rebounds-a nice accomplishment against a talented front line. Morris is an odd player-he's one of the league's bigger bodies and was once a sure-fire NBA player, but shows absolutely no emotion or intensity on the court.
Coach Tubby Smith played nine guys, all of whom got at least nine minutes.
Freshman Jodie Meeks looks like a future star. He's one of the league's fastest players with the ball, and even though he's right-handed, he's extremely effective at taking the ball to the hole with his left hand.
Some UK observers feel that Bobby Perry will be the key to the 'Cats tournament fortunes, surmising that a big game from him will take pressure off Morris.
The Kentucky crowd, always by far the largest at SEC Tournaments, is off in numbers from previous years, and not nearly as vocal.
The key to the game was the Razorbacks' ability to keep Tre Kelley off his game. Kelley was just 4-of-14 and scored only 11 points. The 'Hawgs are big and athletic, and were able to keep Kelley from getting good looks off dribble penetration in the lane.
Lost in the carnage of the blowout was a fantastic game from Brandon Wallace, who had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Carolina loses Kelley, Wallace and Bryce Sheldon, who scored 13 points yesterday. The trio combined for 40 of USC's 52 points.
All three played their last college games yesterday, giving the Gamecocks a head start on repeating as the league's worst team.
Of all the teams I saw yesterday, Arkansas easily looked like the most physically-imposing.
Gary Ervin, last week's SEC player of the week, was on his game again, scoring 16 points and dishing out five assists. Most impressively, Ervin did not commit a turnover in 32 minutes.
He and Patrick Beverley form the league's most-underrated backcourt.
UA out-rebounded Carolina 43-32, with Steven Hill grabbing 10 boards in just 18 minutes.
The 'Hawgs look loose, and will be a tough out in this tournament even as rumors abound that coach Stan Heath may soon be losing his job.
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