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March 4, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Southeastern Conference Notebook

by Rainer Sabin

Former Georgia forward Tony Cole may no longer be a Bulldog. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made his presence felt in Athens since he was dismissed from the team in August. Just this past week, Cole, who averaged 5.4 points per game in the 2001-2002 campaign, claimed that basketball coaches Jim Harrick Sr. and Jim Harrick Jr. gave him money and helped him commit academic fraud.

In an interview last Thursday with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, the former Georgia Bulldog said that Harrick Jr. sent $300 to a friend of Cole to help pay Cole’s phone bill; paid for Cole’s lodging at two Athens hotels; did correspondence work in a course that Cole enrolled in Lincoln Trail Community College in Illinois, and gave Cole an A in a course that Harrick, Jr. taught and Cole never attended.

If all these claims were found to be true, Georgia would probably be handed serious sanctions from the NCAA Infractions Committee. That is why Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley promptly suspended Harrick Jr. the next day, pending the completion of an investigation into possible misconduct by the basketball program.

Georgia hopes that Cole’s checkered past will help render his allegations untrue. Cole was kicked off the team after he was charged with aggravated assault with attempt to commit rape at a campus dorm early last year. Although the charges were dropped, Cole was sent packing, because he had been disciplined on more than one occasion and had threatened to “get” Harrick Sr.

ESPN reported that Cole had been charged with sexual assault by three different women in the last three years and was recently arrested for trespassing.

Schaap’s interview with Cole came the day after Georgia (17-8, 9-5 SEC) beat Ole Miss 89-82 last Wednesday night. On Sunday, the Bulldogs played Kentucky (24-3, 14-0 SEC) close, but lost 74-66 in Athens.

Hog Heaven for Arkansas

What a difference a week makes. Seven days after putting forth one of its worst performances of the season in a 75-56 loss to LSU, Arkansas (9-16, 4-10 SEC) upset Mississippi State 53-51 on Saturday and completed its first 2-0 week in SEC play in the Stan Heath era. Three days after beating Vanderbilt 60-50 in Nashville to earn its first road victory of the season, Arkansas returned to Fayetteville and outlasted one of the better teams in the conference.

Using a combination of a 1-2-2 zone, a 2-3 zone, and man-to-man defense, the Hogs were able to stifle Bulldog center Mario Austin. Austin, who averaged 15.6 points per game going into the game with Arkansas, was limited to just five points against the Razorbacks. Nevertheless, Mississippi State (18-7, 7-6 SEC), which had beaten Alabama last Wednesday, led for almost the entire game. That is – until Arkansas freshman guard Kendrick Davis converted a three-point play to put Razorbacks up two, 53-51, with 25.9 seconds left. A last-second jumpshot by Timmy Bowers, who scored a game-high 24 points, bounced off the rim and Mississippi State remained winless at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas improved significantly from the last time both teams met. On Feb. 8, Mississippi State won 84-54 and all the Razorbacks could do was hang their heads. Three weeks later, the Bulldogs were the ones that left defeated. “It feels good to get a win against a good team like Mississippi State,” Davis said. “They beat us pretty bad the first time we played them, but we got the victory this time.”

Florida Survives Late Scare in Auburn

Leading by 14 points at Auburn (18-9, 7-7 SEC) with 6:28 remaining in regulation, Florida seemed to be well on its way to a school-record 24th regular season victory. But the Tigers had other plans. In a matter of minutes, Auburn was able to slice the double-digit deficit with some sharp shooting from the outside. With 2:43 left in the game, Marquis Daniels hit a three-pointer to cap an 8-0 run that changed the score to 63-57 in favor of the Gators.

At that point, Auburn seemed on the cusp of a major comeback. But the Tigers could not surpass Florida (24-4, 12-2 SEC) after they closed within three, 70-67, with 54 seconds left in the game. As a result, Florida went on to win 73-70 and remain undefeated with a 6-0 mark against SEC West division teams. Forward Matt Bonner scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Gators, who have won six of their last seven games and seem to be on the verge of securing one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

“I give a lot of credit to Florida,” Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. “They just did a great job. Florida and Kentucky are the best teams that we have faced. Florida walks with a swagger, and possesses the confidence that just makes things happen. They go into games never believing they are going to lose.”

Bayou Bengals in Search of March Madness

A week ago, LSU coach John Brady was talking about making the NCAA Tournament. At the time he seemed crazy. The Tigers (17-9, 6-8 SEC) were 4-8 in conference and hadn’t won a road game. Seven days later, the Bayou Bengals are starting make their case for a bid. On Saturday, LSU marched into Knoxville, blew out a struggling Tennessee team 88-67, and earned its first victory away from home.

The Tigers cruised to their third consecutive victory by riding the coattails of their senior trio – Ronald Dupree, Collis Temple III, and Torris Bright. Temple III scored a season-high 23 points, Dupree added 22 points, and Bright contributed 19. LSU set a school record by shooting a robust 17 of 27 from three-point range by besting the 16 of 25 mark it set in a 94-63 win over Auburn Wednesday night. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Brady said. “We shot 63% from the floor, 78% from the 3-point line, and had 6 turnovers. Those numbers are pretty good for our team, and I am proud of them.”

LSU’s hot perimeter shooting staked the Tigers to a 10-0 lead and the Bayou Bengals never looked back. Meanwhile, Tennessee (15-10, 7-7 SEC) is having some serious issues on defense, which has contributed to their four-game losing streak and its relegation to bubble status for the Big Dance. Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson doesn’t know what is going on in Knoxville after losing to the Tigers and Kentucky in the last week, while also surrendering an average of 83.5 points per game in their last two contests. “We’re not playing defense with the energy and the intensity that we did two weeks ago,” Peterson said. “I’ve tried to motivate the team by pushing the right buttons, but I haven’t succeeded. I told them after the game that they’ve had too good a season so far to hang their heads now.”

Ole Miss Continues Freefall

Ole Miss (12-13, 3-11 SEC) hasn’t won a game since beating Arkansas 73-54 Jan. 25. That didn’t change Sunday, when Alabama defeated the Rebels 86-63 in Tuscaloosa. Guard Kennedy Winston scored 20 points, Antoine Pettway tallied 19 points, and Erwin Dudley added 18 in the victory, as the Tide got revenge for a 76-57 loss to Ole Miss Jan. 21.

Alabama (16-9, 6-8 SEC) took advantage of Ole Miss’ lax defense, which has given up more than 80 points in its last three games. However, the Tide did not take control of the game until there was 3:24 remaining in the first half. That is when Alabama finished off a 13-0 run. The Tide, which lost to Mississippi State 59-55, continues to hang on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, while Ole Miss is playing itself out of any postseason appearance.

South Carolina Cruises to Win over Commodores

South Carolina (12-13, 5-9 SEC) needs at least one more win to secure an NIT after beating Vanderbilt 76-64 in Columbia Saturday. The Gamecocks received a career-high 21 points and seven assists from forward Carlos Powell, as South Carolina sent Vanderbilt to its seventh consecutive loss. The Commodores have not won a road game this season and could not maintain a 36-30 lead early in the second half. Led by Chuck Eidson, who scored 18 points and Rolando Howell, who added 13, South Carolina soon embarked on a 22-7 run that gave the Gamecocks a nine-point cushion and control of the game. South Carolina will look to get to the .500 mark Wednesday against Alabama.

Meanwhile Vanderbilt (10-15, 3-11 SEC) faces the nation’s hottest team, Kentucky, Wednesday. The Wildcats have won 18 straight games, are firing on all cylinders, and are a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As a result, all’s well in Lexington.

     

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