Work in Sports
Upset bug claims all 3 SEC East co-champs
Posted: Saturday March 11, 2000 01:51 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- It wasn't Arkansas' traditional "40 minutes of hell," but it sure felt like it to Kentucky.
Joe Johnson scored 21 points and Arkansas pulled off the third major upset of the Southeastern Conference tournament with a wire-to-wire 86-72 victory over No. 16 Kentucky on Friday night.
The Razorbacks (17-14) had moved away from the suffocating style of play that had won them the 1994 national championship and earned them a return trip to the final the next year.
But coach Nolan Richardson turned his young team loose at the start of Friday's quarterfinal and it responded with 33 points off of 27 Kentucky turnovers -- nearly doubling the Wildcats' average of 14.7 -- while committing only six of their own.
The Razorbacks had 13 steals.
For Kentucky, it seemed like Arkansas of old.
"We got beat by a team that came at us right from the beginning, a team that was much quicker than we were the whole game," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Their press was very effective and forced us into a lot of turnovers. They ran a lot of people at us and that takes something out of you."
The Razorbacks, the third seed in the West, eliminated one of the four teams that shared the regular season title. Two others, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 11 Florida, also lost in Friday's quarterfinals. Only No. 10 LSU is still alive.
"That tells you this league is strong from top to bottom," Richardson said. "If you threw the ball up tomorrow to start the season, we might have nine teams tie for the title. It's gotten that close."
Arkansas reached the semifinals -- where its opponent will be LSU -- for the eighth time in nine years.
Kentucky (22-9) had won three consecutive tournament titles and seven of the last eight, but won't be around for the semifinals for the first time since probation kept it out in 1991.
The Wildcats entered the game 11-0 at the Georgia Dome in postseason play.
"It was an unfamiliar situation being [behind] here in Atlanta," Smith said. "But I knew from the beginning we weren't ready to play. We looked rusty and a step slower."
The Wildcats' fans, the loudest and most loyal of the league, annually turn the Georgia Dome into Rupp Arena South. But Friday they headed for the exits with four minutes to play.
Auburn 78, Florida 70
The Tigers didn't need Chris Porter on Friday night.
Daymeon Fishback had 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, leading Auburn to an upset over No. 11 Florida in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Auburn (22-8) came through with an inspired performance after learning on its way to the Georgia Dome that Porter's college career was over for taking $2,500 from an agent's middleman.
Porter was declared ineligible on Feb. 27, a few hours before Auburn played the Gators in Gainesville. Stunned by the loss of their best player, the Tigers were blown out 88-59.
Auburn lost its last three regular-season games without Porter and entered the SEC tournament with a four-game losing streak overall. And, once again, Auburn was dealt a blow before it stepped on the court against the Gators.
Porter has asked an NCAA appeals committee for reinstatement, saying he needed the money to keep his mother from being evicted and didn't know it was coming from an agent. The committee denied Porter's appeal Friday afternoon after a conference call.
But his teammates went out a few hours later and knocked off the Gators.
Auburn was up 44-41 at halftime and zealously guarded its advantage throughout the final 20 minutes -- never leading by more than eight but never losing the upper hand.
Fishback hit a key 3-pointer with 4:22 remaining after Brett Nelson brought the Gators within 62-59 on a trey. Fishback added a couple of free throws to push the lead to 67-59 and Auburn sealed the victory at the foul line after Mike Miller's jumper cut the margin to 68-64 with 1:09 left.
Mack McGadney, starting in place of Porter, added 15 points and Scott Pohlman had 10. Donnell Harvey led Florida with 15 points, while Miller had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Florida actually had five more baskets from the field, but Auburn took advantage of a staggering 32 fouls by the pressing Gators. The Tigers made 32-of-44 at the line, countering a 21-of-63 performance from the field.
South Carolina 75, Tennessee 68
It took all season, but South Carolina finally learned how to win a close one.
The Gamecocks pulled off a major upset in the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday, getting a career-high 20 points from Jamel Bradley and defeating regular-season champion and No. 8 Tennessee 75-68 in the quarterfinals.
The Volunteers (24-6), who shared the SEC title with three other schools, failed to score in the final 4:23 after C.J. Black hit a hook shot for their final lead, 68-67.
Now, Tennessee will have to wait until Sunday to see how much the loss hurts its seeding in the NCAA tournament.
"This is a setback to us," Vols coach Jerry Green said. "We have got to learn to handle prosperity, but every time someone gives us a hit, we come back harder. I think we've got the consistency to put a run together in the NCAA tournament."
South Carolina's mediocre record is deceiving. The Gamecocks lost to No. 5 Michigan State 59-56, fell to No. 12 Syracuse 77-74 in overtime, were edged by Florida 86-82, came up just short to No. 10 LSU 64-59, and fell twice to Tennessee by a total of 15 points.
But, with a lineup featuring three freshmen and the sophomore Bradley, South Carolina came on strong at the end of the regular season, winning four of its last six including a 77-72 upset at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks opened the tournament with a 69-59 victory over Alabama on Thursday
"I'm pleased for our team, which has struggled all year but didn't have the record to show how hard they played," coach Eddie Fogler said. "This is the first one where we hung in there, hung in there down the stretch."
LSU 71, Vanderbilt 60
Freshman Collis Temple III scored a season-high 20 points to lead No. 10 LSU to a 71-60 victory over Vanderbilt on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Temple, the son of former LSU standout Collis Temple Jr., made six of seven 3-pointers to pace the Tigers and overshadow the anticipated battle between Vanderbilt's Dan Langhi and LSU's Stromile Swift, the SEC's co-players of the year.
LSU (26-4) advanced to play the winner of a game between Arkansas and No. 16 Kentucky in Saturday's semifinals. Vanderbilt (19-10) must hope its record will be good enough for the NCAA tournament.
But much of the attention was on Langhi and Swift, who both had disappointing days.
Langhi, whose average of 22.6 points made him the first Vanderbilt player to lead the league in scoring in 25 years, scored just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Swift, who averaged 16.5 points and helped LSU win a share of the SEC title, finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting.
Without Langhi producing, the Commodores had few other options to turn to. Atiba Prater led Vanderbilt with 16 points, but the Commodores shot a dismal 32 percent.
They missed their first 16 shots, finally scoring on Prater's put back with 10:40 to play in the first half. The second half started just as slowly for Vanderbilt, which missed seven of its first eight shots.
Temple, meanwhile, stepped up and matched his previous career high of 11 points with a a 3-pointer at the 11:05 mark of the second half that gave LSU a 44-30 lead.
The Tigers eventually stretched their lead to 16, but Vanderbilt closed within 65-60 when Prater scored eight straight points and Sam Howard hit a 3 with 1:13 to play.
After an LSU turnover, Howard missed a long 3, Swift got the rebound and was fouled. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Langhi tried to convert but turned the ball.
Lamont Roland finished with 12 points and a team-high 10
rebounds for LSU.