Missouri survives Texas A&M in 2OT; more SEC hoops
No. 8 Missouri 91, Texas A&M 83: It was the game that kept on giving, and for Missouri, the prize at the end of Thursday's marathon game against Texas A&M was a date with the top-ranked team in the country.
The No. 8-seed Tigers survived No. 9 Texas A&M 91-83 in double-overtime in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. That means Missouri will have to pick itself up off the floor from 50 minutes of basketball and face top-seeded Florida in the next round on Friday. But for now, the Tigers remain alive as a bubble team in search of an NCAA at-large bid.
Missouri almost saw its season come to an end in regulation after Texas A&M fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit. The Aggies' Alec Caruso (career-high 28 points) knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:52 to play to give A&M a 68-64 lead. Later Jabari Brown hit two free throws to tie things up at 68. On its next possession, Missouri failed to get a shot off before the clock struck zero.
The Aggies staved off elimination at the end of the first overtime when Blake McDonald stole a Missouri inbound pass and dished the ball to Caruso, who laid it up and in with eight seconds left. Facing a tie game, the Tigers failed again to get a shot off before the buzzer, sending the game to a second extra period.
Missouri took control of the game in the second overtime on a 9-0 run that saw the Tigers grab an 88-79 lead. Mizzou held on to win the first double-overtime game in the SEC Tournament since 1987.
Missouri did what it had to do to stay alive in the NCAA sweepstakes, though a matchup with the spirited Gators on Friday looms large. Even with a win against Florida, the Tigers aren't a lock for an at-large tourney bid. But for a team that ended its regular season with a 25-point road loss to Tennessee, Missouri is doing what it needs to do now to turn some heads on the selection committee.
No. 13 South Carolina 71, No. 5 Arkansas 69: Arkansas' postseason hopes likely spell "N-I-T" after Thursday's SEC Tournament game against South Carolina. The 13-seed Gamecocks held on to get past the 5-seed Razorbacks on late free throws in Atlanta.
South Carolina held a three-point lead at the half despite Sindarius Thornwell -- the Gamecocks' second-leading scorer -- being limited with foul trouble. The two teams kept things tight for much of the second half, and Brenton Williams' free throw with 53 seconds left gave South Carolina a 70-69 lead. But the Gamecocks kept Arkansas alive by missing three of their next four free throws, and the Hogs had one last-ditch shot at a tie. But Arkansas' half-court heave missed its mark.
Thornwell shook off his early foul trouble to contribute a team-high 17 points. Meanwhile, South Carolina controlled the glass with a 40-24 rebounding advantage, including 15 offensive boards. Now Arkansas will likely have to settle for a spot in the NIT after finishing the year with 21 wins and one of the SEC's most dangerous offenses. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, can keep playing spoiler on Friday when they face off with Tennessee, another bubble team that likely can't overcome a loss if it hopes to reach the Dance.
No. 7 LSU 68, No. 10 Alabama 56: LSU put on an offensive clinic for much of Thursday's matchup with Alabama. The Tigers connected on 50 percent of their shots, including half of their 3-pointers (11-of-22), to sink the Crimson Tide and move into Friday's SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
Four players scored in double-figures for LSU, who also pulled down 38 rebounds and dished out 19 assists. Johnny O'Bryant III (11 points) and the Tigers used a 13-0 run in the first half to pull away for good against Alabama, which lost its 19th game of the season.
LSU will meet 2-seed Kentucky in the quarterfinals, and if the Tigers manage to get hot from the outside for the second day in a row, the Wildcats could be in trouble. Coach John Calipari's crew hasn't been as dominant this season with a 22-9 record, including six SEC losses, including at South Carolina. But his young crew can still defend, especially against the three-ball: No SEC team has allowed fewer treys (88) than Kentucky this season.
No. 6 Ole Miss 78, No. 14 Mississippi State 66: That Marshall Henderson fellow is making quite a name for himself. Ole Miss' sharpshooting guard knocked down seven 3-pointers for his 21 points as the Rebels got past Mississippi State and claimed a spot in Friday's quarterfinals.
Henderson, the SEC's third-leading scorer during the regular season, helped Ole Miss fight back from a nine-point halftime deficit using solid play on both sides of the ball. The Rebels scored 43 second-half points, dished out 15 assists and forced Mississippi State into 17 turnovers on the night. Ole Miss will move on to face 3-seed Georgia on Friday. That should be a particularly interesting matchup with Henderson on the perimeter, as the Bulldogs fielded the SEC's second-best 3-point percentage defense (.299) during the regular season.