Sidelines with John Clay

SEC men’s basketball progress reports

John Calipari: This team goes where I take them

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari said he may have been to blame for the team’s slow start in its 70-66 win over Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The Cats, now 13-2 in the SEC, play at Tennessee on Saturday.
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Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari said he may have been to blame for the team’s slow start in its 70-66 win over Arkansas on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The Cats, now 13-2 in the SEC, play at Tennessee on Saturday.

SEC basketball updates:

Kentucky (12-3): PJ Washington led the Cats in scoring six straight games before the Player of the Year candidate was held to nine points by Arkansas on Tuesday. UK won anyway. Tyler “I’m a Bucket” Herro scored 29 points as John Calipari’s club shook off a 15-point second half deficit. Saturday brings the second showdown with Tennessee. And this one is in Knoxville.

LSU (13-2): Want to hear something impressive? The Tigers have won the last two games without star point guard Tremont Waters, out with an undisclosed illness. Freshman guard Javon Smart scored a surprise 29 points in the 82-80 overtime win over Tennessee. Naz Reid produced 18 points and 11 rebounds in the 66-55 win over Texas A&M. Waters could be back for the Tigers visit to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama on Saturday.

Tennessee (13-2): The Vols split a pair of rough-and-tough road games, losing 82-80 in overtime at LSU, then beating Ole Miss 73-71 in Oxford. Grant Williams scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Rebels. Now UT has nothing but revenge on its mind with Kentucky arriving at Thompson-Boling on Saturday. The Vols remember that 16-point loss to the Cats just two weeks ago.

Florida (9-6): All of a sudden, Mike White’s team is one of the hottest in the league. The Gators have won five straight, including a 71-55 victory at hapless Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Georgia comes to Gainesville on Saturday before Florida plays a major role in deciding the SEC Tournament’s No. 1 seed. LSU is at Florida on March 6. Then the Gators travel to Kentucky on March 9.

Ole Miss (9-6): Kermit Davis’ club suffered a heartbreaker Wednesday, losing to Tennessee 73-71. Ole Miss fans littered the floor to prove it, protesting a charging call against the home team near game’s end. The Rebels have now lost two of their last three, but opportunity lies ahead. Ole Miss travels to a reeling Arkansas on Saturday. Then Kentucky comes to Oxford next Tuesday. An upset of the Wildcats would all but punch the Rebels’ ticket to the Big Dance.

Mississippi State (9-6): Ben Howland’s team figured some things out in that second half against Kentucky on Feb. 9 when the Bulldogs cut a 17-point UK lead to one. MSU lost 71-67, but haven’t lost since. Its 68-49 win over Missouri behind Tyson Carter’s career-high 22 points on Tuesday was its fifth straight. Now comes back-to-back road games at Auburn and Tennessee.

South Carolina (9-6): The Gamecocks are coming off back-to-back losses to Mississippi State (76-71) and Alabama (68-62). Now point guard A.J. Lawson may be out with an ankle injury. At least Chris Silva contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds against Alabama. He may be read for a late-season run. Carolina is at Missouri on Saturday.

Alabama (8-7): After losing three straight, the Crimson Tide has bounced back with a pair of wins. Mama beat Vanderbilt 68-61, then went on the road and notched an important victory at South Carolina 68-62. Freshman point guard Kira Lewis scored 36 points in the two wins. A win over LSU on Saturday gives Alabama a strong case for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Auburn (8-7): Chuma Okeke’s three-pointer with 26 seconds left proved to be the difference in Auburn’s 78-75 win at Georgia on Wednesday. Bruce Pearl’s Tigers have won three of their last four games. The one loss was a 27-point thumping at Kentucky. Jared Harper scored 22 points and dished five assists in the win at Georgia. A win over visiting Mississippi State on Saturday would all but wrap up an NCAA bid for the Tigers.

[SEC men’s basketball game-by-game results, schedules]

Arkansas (5-10): Disgruntled Razorbacks fan have taken to refer to head coach Mike Anderson as “Mediocre Mike.” Arkansas’ 70-66 loss at Kentucky was its sixth straight defeat. That the visitors blew a 15-point second half lead didn’t help. Ole Miss comes to Fayetteville on Saturday.

Texas A&M (5-10): After wins over Alabama and Arkansas, upsetting LSU in Baton Rouge was a bridge too far for the Aggies. Billy Kennedy’s club lost the game 66-55 and guard TJ Starks for the season with a dislocated shoulder. A get-well card arrives in College Station on Saturday, however, in the form of Vanderbilt.

Missouri (3-12): Cuonzo Martin’s club just can’t pull out of its skid. Mizzou has lost six of its last seven Ames. It has scored more than 65 points just once in those seven. It managed all of 49 points in Starkville on Saturday. South Carolina comes to Columbia on Saturday.

Georgia (1-14): After his team’s three-point win at Georgia on Wednesday, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl complimented the Bulldogs. Pearl said Tom Crean’s team is still playing hard. And that’s hard to do. Especially when Georgia has lost is last four games by a grand total of nine points. The Dawgs are at Florida on Saturday.

Vanderbilt (0-15): No SEC basketball team has gone winless in conference play since Georgia Tech finished 0-14 in 1953-54. No wonder Georgia Tech is no longer in the league. Vandy is close to putting its name in the record book, however. The Commodores are at Texas A&M on Saturday, then finish with Arkansas at home (March 6) and LSU on the road (March 9). The Commodores can do it.

SEC basketball standings

TeamSECOverall
Tennessee13-225-3
Kentucky13-224-4
LSU13-223-5
Miss State9-621-7
Ole Miss9-619-9
Florida9-617-11
S Carolina9-614-14
Auburn8-719-9
Alabama8-717-11
Arkansas5-1014-14
Texas A&M5-1012-15
Missouri3-1212-15
Georgia1-1410-18
Vanderbilt0-159-19
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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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