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Vanderbilt moves on while MSU heads home

By By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
March 13, 2004
ATLANTA Those expecting Mississippi State-Alabama Part III in the semifinal round of the SEC Basketball Tournament today left the Georgia Dome a little disappointed on Friday night.
Vanderbilt knocked off the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs 74-70 to set up a semifinal matchup against Florida, who defeated Alabama 75-73 on overtime on Friday. The game tips off at 2:15 today.
Today's first game is set for noon between Kentucky and South Carolina. The Wildcats and Gamecocks have played twice this season with UK taking a 65-64 win at Rupp Arena and winning 84-65 on the road.
The loss by State opens the door for Kentucky to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, if the Wildcats win today and in the finals on Sunday.
Exploding that bubble
If LSU was indeed on the NCAA Tournament bubble going into Friday's SEC Tournament quarterfinals, it likely burst when South Carolina dismantled the Tigers 85-64.
LSU has now lost six of its last seven games and among those are two losses to Auburn, a team that finished the season below .500. The Tigers also have tough losses at Houston one of the weaker Conference USA teams and at Ole Miss.
On the positive side, LSU's biggest wins are two victories over Alabama and one on the road against Florida.
LSU head coach John Brady says he's not sure what tournament it will be, but that his Tigers will be playing next week.
Back on the bubble
With LSU possibly out of the picture, the Bulldogs of Georgia may be in it but only if the NCAA takes seven teams out of the SEC.
Mississippi State and Kentucky are obvious locks, while Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Alabama are likely to get bids.
The argument for Georgia will be two wins over Kentucky, a three-point double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech, a 14-point win over Florida, 10-point win over Vanderbilt and an overtime loss to Gonzaga.
But there are also a couple strong arguments against the Dawgs. One is an embarassing 80-60 loss to Winthrop in December, and Georgia also has losses to Auburn aned LSU on its resume.
Honoring the best of the best
Beginning with the 1999 tournament the SEC has been honoring all-time greats from each school during halftime of the teams' opening-round games.
Among those being honored in 2004 is former Meridian High School standout Derrick McKey, who attended the University of Alabama from 1984 to 1987.
Others being honored this year and their schools are: Gerald Glass, Ole Miss; Greg Carter, Mississippi State; Charles Barkley, Auburn; Todd Day, Arkansas; Gene Shy, Florida; Lavon Mercer, Georgia; Dan Issel, Kentucky; Brian Winters, South Carolina; Dale Ellis, Tennessee; and Perry Wallace, Vanderbilt.
Sorry Georgia, this was a tourney
While Georgia did manage to beat Kentucky twice during the regular season (65-56 in Lexington and 74-68 in Athens), the Bulldogs have never beaten the Wildcats during SEC Tournament play.
Kentucky's 69-60 win in Friday's first game gave UK an 8-0 edge over Georgia all-time in SEC tournament play.
Believe it or not, Georgia had beaten Kentucky three times in a row before, but it was a few years ago. Quite a few. Georgia beat the Wildcats three straight between Feb. 3, 1923 and Feb. 28, 1925. UK leads the all-time series against UGA 102-21.
Now that's a little better
In his first seven SEC Tournament games, Kentucky senior Cliff Hawkins had scored just 26 points total.
He improved that just a little on Friday, scoring 23 points including a 4-of-7 effort from three-point range. He knocked down 14 of his points in the first half.