SEC Tournament notes: Was Caldwell-Pope a 'lion' for Dogs for last time?

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 14, 2013 

NASHVILLE If Georgia star Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished his college career Thursday, he went out with a bang.

Caldwell-Pope scored a career-high 32 points in the Bulldogs' 68-63 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament second round.

Attention turned to whether the sophomore wing will enter this year's NBA Draft.

"It's not even on my mind right now," Caldwell-Pope said after the game. "I'm just trying to stay focused on what I need to do to finish school right now."

KCP, who earlier this week was named the league's Player of the Year, carried Georgia again. He made nine of 20 shots. His teammates made seven of 36.

Georgia trailed by as much as 23 points late in the first half, then rallied to make it a one-possession game in the final seconds. But Caldwell-Pope missed a game-tying shot, which enabled LSU to escape.

"He's a great competitor," Georgia Coach Mark Fox said. "He embodies what athletes should be. He just competes with a heart of a lion."

Whether KCP again competes for Georgia next season remains in doubt.

"This is Kentavious' decision," Fox said on Wednesday. "He'll do what's best for him. It's not about anybody other than him. It's not about Georgia. It's not about his family. It's about him."

New season

Missouri point guard Phil Pressey welcomed the idea of how the SEC Tournament represents a fresh start.

"I mean, yeah," he said. "The post-season is a whole new thing. It's win or go home. You can be 35-0, but if you lose one game, you're gone."

Pressey denied that he needed a new season after several well-documented failures in the clutch in 2012-13. His turnovers or missed shots or both in the final moments cost Missouri in losses at LSU, Texas A&M and Kentucky. In the regular-season finale at Tennessee last weekend, he shot a three-point air ball with Mizzou down three inside the final 30 seconds.

When asked if he needed a fresh start, Pressey said, "Nah, not at all. As far as failing, to me that's nothing. If you're not failing, you're not growing."

Pressey acknowledged the frustration that comes with not delivering in the clutch.

"I could have gotten a better shot," he said of the air ball at Tennessee. "I should have taken it to the hole. We live and we learn."

Not for the first time this season, Missouri Coach Frank Haith said Pressey must look to distribute more than score.

"He has to trust his teammates," Haith said. "He has pretty good players around him. As long as he's playing the role of making guys around him better, that's what we need."

Vols off bubble?

After his team lost to Tennessee 69-53, Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray endorsed the Vols as worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.

"I thought Tennessee was an NCAA Tournament team before we played them, and I definitely think that now," Ray said. "And I don't think they needed this win to validate them being an NCAA Tournament team."

Doubling down?

A victory over Arkansas on Thursday night would present Vanderbilt with a historic opportunity. The Commodores would have the chance to beat Kentucky in back-to-back SEC Tournaments. The only time the same program beat Kentucky in back-to-back SEC Tournaments: Alabama in 1982 and 1983.

Vanderbilt beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament finals last season.

Attendance figures

The SEC announced an attendance of 10,065 for the afternoon games Thursday. That marked the third-lowest attendance for a Session II of the SEC Tournament. The record lows are 10,001 in Birmingham in 1980 and 10,004 in Orlando in 1990.

The crowd for Session II represented progress. The announced crowd of 7,879 Wednesday night marked a record low for a Session I.

The previous record low was 8,047 in 1996 in New Orleans.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog:

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