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SEC Notebook

December 16, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

SEC Notebook

by Rainer Sabin

For Mississippi State center Mario Austin, the season was almost over before it even began. But that changed last Tuesday when the NCAA declared him eligible to play after its investigators determined that he completed the requisite amount of core class hours at his high school in Alabama. Four days later, Austin made his triumphant return to the hardwood in the Mecca of sports arenas-Madison Square Garden, where he faced off against David West and the No. 10 Xavier Musketeers.

It didn’t seem as if life could get any better for the 6-9 forward, who thought his season was going down the drain just a week ago. Yet, it did. Austin dominated the Musketeers last Saturday, as he scored 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and even drained a three-pointer in a 71-61 win for the Bulldogs (6-1).

Meanwhile, Austin’s heralded counterpart, West, was limited to 13 points, despite the fact that the biggest Bulldog on the block did not guard him. West seemed to realize that it was Austin’s day. In an interview with ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, he commented on Austin’s performance. “Wow, 28 points in his first game back,” the Xavier star said. “Can’t get any better than that. He’s a load. He works so hard off the ball, too. Guys who were guarding him kept telling me to get him away from the block, but then he caught the ball two feet from the basket and you can’t do anything about that.”

With Austin back in full effect, it seems as if Mississippi State’s season is just beginning. Beware of the Bulldogs.

Fear the Gators

Last Saturday, the Florida Gators (7-2) did something no other non-conference team has done in 13 years – beat Maryland at home. Behind the shooting of freshman guard Anthony Roberson, who scored 20 points, Florida outlasted the Terrapins 69-64 and ended their streak of 87 consecutive non-conference wins in College Park, which began after a 70-63 loss to Coppin State back in 1989. The Gators will be able to relish the victory for a week before they play in-state rival Miami on Dec. 21.

Spartans Invade Lexington

In a game featuring star players Keith Bogans, Chris Hill, and Aloysius Anagonye, Tim Bograkos emerged as the hero. That’s right. Michigan State’s 6-2 sophomore guard sank a three-pointer on the wing with 49.2 seconds left that pushed the Spartans over the hump in a 71-67 victory over Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Bograkos, who averages 1.7 points per game in the 2002-2003 campaign, made his name known on CBS’ nationally televised broadcast when he quickly responded to a Keith Bogans’ lay-up, which gave the Wildcats a 67-66 lead. With Kentucky focusing on Hill, who scored 16 points, Bograkos was left wide-open on the Spartans’ possession and immediately quieted the crowd with his trifecta. Kentucky falls to 5-2 with the loss and will face another Big Ten opponent, national title runner-up Indiana, Dec. 21.

Alabama has Close Shave

The Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0), which earned the highest ranking ever in the major polls when it moved up to No. 2 last week, almost suffered a loss that would have sent it tumbling back down. But the Tide survived its brush with disaster Saturday, as it outlasted Bowling Green 72-63 in the Coors Classic in Mobile, Ala. Forward Kenny Walker scored 25 points in the victory over the Falcons, which trailed 66-63 with 1:51 left in regulation. The Falcons were 2-3 going into the game and had been blown out by a dismal Michigan team 83-57. But center Kevin Netter scored 26 points and kept Bowling Green in the game. Alabama will try to get back on track against Providence Dec. 21.

One Bulldog Tops the Other

Georgia (4-3) proved who was to dog on Sunday, as it outlasted Gonzaga 95-83 in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta. In a battle of two schools, whose nicknames are the Bulldogs, Coach Jim Harrick’s team continued to make amends for the early season debacles it suffered. All-American candidate Jarvis Hayes scored 29 points, while guard Ezra Williams added 21 points in the victory over a team that hails from the West Coast Conference.

Tigers Chomp on some Cupcakes

LSU (5-1) is about to enter a diabetic coma after taking a bite out of the sweet confections that have appeared on its schedule, which is ranked 306th in the nation in terms of strength of opponents. After a seven-day hiatus due to final exams, the Tigers took out Texas A&M Corpus Christi 95-60. Corpus Christi has allowed opponents to score an average of 92 points and has beaten only one other Division I school. The Tigers, meanwhile, have played only one legitimate opponent – Texas A&M from College Station – and lost 79-77. Their next big test is against No. 1 Arizona next Saturday – a game, which follows a Tuesday match-up against Prairie View A&M.

Around the Rest of the SEC

Tennessee (3-1) secured a 70-69 victory over Georgia Tech, as Jon Higgins nailed a half-court three-pointer at the buzzer. The Volunteers, who had lost several games in the last seconds last season, got revenge against the Yellow Jackets. Higgins scored the last five points of the game for Tennessee, which was playing the second game of the Peach Bowl Classic. South Carolina (4-2) hosts Wofford Monday night after taking an eight-day break for finals . . . Vanderbilt (5-2) played High Point Sunday night in Nashville – six days after losing to Indiana 73-56 . . . Arkansas (2-4) will return to the court Dec. 18 after an eight-day break that began after a 72-60 win over Louisiana Tech. Coach Stan Heath says the extra practice time afforded by the respite will help his team correct the mistakes they made early in the season and allow him to simplify his offense . . . Justin Reed scored 22 points, as Ole Miss (4-1) rolled over another non-conference lightweight – Virginia Commonwealth – 82-68 Saturday. The Rebels have a 15-game winning streak at home . . . Auburn (6-1) beat up on Murray State 72-52 on Saturday, as Marquis Daniels scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.


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