If you didn't watch any SEC basketball last night, you'd be forgiven if you looked at the scores and thought that three of the box scores were missing a big chunk of points for one of the teams. It was an ugly showing for three teams in the league.
The largest margin of victory came for the Kentucky Wildcats, who blew away the Georgia Bulldogs 82-48. UGA kept it close for the first five minutes, as it was only 14-8 at that point in the game. The margin was even the same with five minutes to go in the first half at 26-20. However in the final 4:04, UK went on a 14-2 run fueled by Tyler Ulis's seven points and his assist on a Jamal Murray three pointer.
The Wildcat onslaught continued after the break. By the 12 minute mark, Kentucky had outscored Georgia 19-6 in the new period to make the score 61-30. There wasn't going to be a comeback from that point. Murray's 24 points paced the 'Cats, while Ulis contributed 14. The real story was UK's defense, however, which held UGA to a dismal 22% shooting. If the Bulldogs didn't make a healthy 22 of their 27 free throw attempts, the score would've been even uglier. Yante Maten was the only Georgia player in double digits, and he turned in a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards.
The next-largest margin of victory—and only by two points—belonged to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who shocked and hammered the Arkansas Razorbacks 78-46. The Hogs actually led the game 10-9 at the 14:16 mark in the first half, but ten minutes on the clock later MSU had a commanding 36-14 advantage. The Bulldogs stretched it to 42-20 at halftime, and Arkansas was not able to cut the lead appreciably afterwards.
Arkansas generally uses its long distance game effectively, but it only made one-of-ten from behind the arc. Jimmy Whitt was the only Razorback to reach double digits with 11, while Anthlon Bell made the only three pointer on his way to nine. Gavin Ware's 20 led all scorers, and the Bulldogs led nearly every major category. They shot 53% from the field, outrebounded the Hogs 50 to 39, and held an amazing 16-3 edge in assists.
The other big win on the night came from the Tennessee Volunteers "only" beating the Auburn Tigers 71-45. The 26 point margin would have stood out more if not for the 32 of Mississippi State's win and 34 of Kentucky's win.
If you had told the Tigers ahead of time that Kevin Punter would spend most of the night in foul trouble and would scored just four points, they'd have taken it in a heartbeat and felt good about their chances. Instead, the Volunteer defense compensated by holding AU to 24% shooting. Bryce Brown made it to 18 points for the visiting Tigers, but no one else hit at least ten points. Robert Hubbs III took over for Punter with 20 points on 7/12 shooting, while Devon Baulkman made four three pointers on the way to 14 points.
The only close game of the night came courtesy of the Ole Miss Rebels giving the Florida Gators a scare but ultimately falling 76-72 in Gainesville. UF led for nearly the entire first half, but it was never able to pull away. It briefly held a ten point lead with a little under nine minutes to go, but the Rebels recovered and trailed by just seven at the break. Ole Miss came out hot and began the second half with an 11-1 run to take a 40-37 lead at the 17:23 mark, but that would be the last time it was in front during the game.
Not that the Rebels didn't threaten or anything. The only scoring in the second half while the clock had a 3 in the minute column was Stefan Moody making five free throws. That mini run made it a one-point game at 67-66, and neither team scored for over a minute and a half from there. Florida finally broke the drought with a Kasey Hill circus shot and a KeVaughn Allen three pointer in quick succession that pushed the lead to six with 52 seconds to go. UF made just enough free throws in the final minute, though, and a Devon Robinson dunk with seven seconds to go put an exclamation point on the win.
Tomasz Gielo led all scorers with 20 in a losing effort, while Moody backed him up with 19. Five Gators reached double digits in a balanced display from the home team, led by 16 from Dorian Finney-Smith and 15 each for Allen and Robinson. The Rebels welcomed back Sebastian Saiz after he missed weeks following eye surgery, and he had four points and six rebounds in 11 minutes of action.