In what has been described as a rebuilding year for the SEC, in general, most pundits agree that Florida is the class of the SEC while Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Missouri will fill out the other NCAA berths from the league. Alabama, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU, and surging Georgia are vieing for the fifth spot in the league. The Bulldogs are the hottest of the six right now as they won their fourth in a row Wednesday night at Tennessee behind the streaking play of guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The sophomore guard was 9-of-12 from the floor, nailing five triples in the Wedneaday night win as he has been on a major tear in leading Georgia with 21.3 ppg. and 7 rpg. in the four-game streak.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been on a tear for Georgia during the past four games. Credit: UGA Sports Communications
“He’s getting some help, he’s really married to how we play,” noted Bulldogs coach Mark Fox, “He really understands that and he believes and knows where his shots come from. He’s really starting to mature as a player.”
Caldwell-Pope has led an ascension of the Bulldogs offense in making 31-of-46 shots in his last four games as Georgia has upped it’s three-point game since league play began. The Bulldogs have made 44-of-118 triples in going 5-4 through the first half of the SEC season.
“We always believed we had a really good three-point shooting team,” acknwoledged Fox, “Early in the year, we were probably not taking the right three-point shots, but we always felt like had a really good three point shooting team. Early in the year, we were very impatient in every way, every part of the game, so we didn’t complete as many early.”
The impetus of Mark Fox’s squad is a freshman-sophomore dominated rotation. As the season pulls forward, this could be the sleeper in SEC play.
One immediate objective of Tennessee coch Cuonzzo Martin is how to get more shots for big-man Jarnell Stokes. Credit: UT Athletic Media Relations
Tennessee – Vols big-man Jarnell Stokes has had a tough season in getting a high average of shots per game. He has been the focal point of defensive game plans on a regular basis. Much of that has been due to the fact that 6-7, 260-lb. Jerrone Maymon, his complementary component, has been shelved all season due to injury. Stokes has only averaged eight shot attempts per game and has eight double-doubles in averaging 12 ppg., and 8.5 rebounds.
“I think it was really tough because of the double team,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said after Stokes only managed six attempts, but 10 free throw attempts on Wednesaday night, “I think one of the things he did in the second half was pound it in and make quick moves. Regardless of the double team, throw your body around, so to speak. Make aggressive quick moves. I think he did a really good job of that in the second half. In the first half, guys were doubling him and I thought he was patient.”
Turnovers have also took away lots of Stokes’ opportunities of late as Tennessee has 76 turnovers (15.1 tpg.) in their last five outings. The Vols have gone 2-3 in those and it has taken them out of NCAA conversations and has put them in position to where they will probably have to win the SEC Tournament to get an NCAA bid.
“You don’t want to turn the ball over,” explained Martin, “I don’t think they’re afraid to pass, but you don’t want to turn the ball over, so you hesitate. Like I told Jarnell, sometimes when they get the ball in to you, it might not be in the post position to get the catch, and that’s part of it. Sometimes they have to be able to whip it in to him. It’s got to be a tough pass and a quick pass.”
ALABAMA - The Crimson Tide’s play was nightmarish in their 49-37 loss to Auburn Wednesday night. The Tide shot only 28.6% from the floor, turned the ball over 16 times and the team was outrebounded by five. Much of the problem for Alabama has been that no big man has emerged inside as a scoring threat.
“I think we were up 15-3 and then we go seven minutes or so and we don’t score,” noted a bewildered Anthony Grant, “ We don’t take advantage of the opportunities, whether it’s missing shots around the basket, missing open shots, turning the ball over.”
The Tide had moved to 14-7 by winning six of it’s last seven; however, such an ugly and uninspired loss to rival Auburn was a tough awakening as Alabama was trying to play it’s way back into NCAA conversations.
We’ve talked about the opportunities we have in front of us,” lamented Grant, “I can’t explain the lack of effort, the lack of energy, the lack of execution. I have no explanation for it.”
TEXAS A&M - The Aggies shocked Kentucky 81-73 behind 40 points from Elston Howard in mid-January and then almost turned in another win over the Wildcats last Saturday in College Station. With that, Turner came back from a slow start to finish with 21 points and he had a potential game-tying triple in overtime which rimmed out.
“They paid more attention to me and they made me catch it further back than being able to catch it coming off screens,” said Turner, “Toward the end of the game, they started double-teaming me when I caught it. I kept trying to move around without the ball. I tried to get some back-cuts going. I was able to get good looks. I just wasn’t able to hit some shots. As the game moved on I got more and more comfortable. I was just trying to find different ways to score.”
Turner has been the Aggies’ catalyst and at 13-8, they still have the opportunity to make a run toward the NCAA Tournament. Turner leads A&M with 34.1 mpg. and scores at a 15.7 ppg. clip. If he ups his production, opportunities will arise for Kourtney Robinson and Ray Turner inside while the dribble penetration angles for J’Mychal Reese and the shooting of 3-point ace Fabyon Harris will improve.
- Ken Cross
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