I predicted some SEC basketball chaos in yesterday's schedule post, and Tuesday delivered with the Kentucky Wildcats falling to the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs upending the South Carolina Gamecocks.
One bit of chaos I was certain wasn't going to happen was UK's loss to the Vols. The Cats appeared to be hitting their stride, while UT suffered another collapse in a loss to TCU over the weekend. Well, the Volunteers flipped the script on Kentucky, as they fell behind by as much as 34-13 in the first half before rallying for the victory.
Tennessee took its first lead of the game at 65-63 with 9:42 to play in the second half, but UK tied it back up at 70 with just over five minutes to go. The Vols answered with a quick 7-0 run over the next minute and a half, and that cushion held with the Wildcats getting no closer than three the rest of the way. Kevin Punter led all scorers with 27, while Armani Moore muscled his way to a double-double with 18 and 13. Jamal Murray's 21 and Tyler Ulis's 20 were tops for the Wildcats, who are now just 2-5 in road games on the year.
The night's other big upset came with UGA denying South Carolina a chance to secure a 20th win on the season. The Bulldogs outplayed the Gamecocks in the first half, running up a 33-23 lead that they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way.
Emblematic of the fact that it was just UGA's night was the fact that J.J. Frazier made a couple of circus three pointers in the second half. One came after he had to hop the South Carolina bench to make a save and almost couldn't find a way back on the floor. The other happened with just under two minutes to go. The shot clock was nearly gone, and he had to launch a falling, off balance triple that landed him squarely on the UGA bench. The shot found the bottom of the net, pushed the lead out from six to nine, and largely shut the door on the win. Frazier finished with 13, while Yante Maten had 18 and Kenny Gaines had 17 for the Bulldogs. Sindarius Thornwell's 18 points and 11 boards led South Carolina's efforts.
Elsewhere, Ben Simmons made sure there wasn't another big upset and powered the LSU Tigers to an 80-68 road win over the Auburn Tigers. The freshman did it all with 21 points, 13 boards, and seven assists to secure a win that was bigger than the score might indicate. The Bayou Bengals led by as many as 21 points in the second half, so this wasn't a case of LSU pushing out the lead with free throws late.
The Alabama Crimson Tide also got a road win—their first on the year—by edging the Mississippi State Bulldogs 82-80 in overtime. MSU had a chance to put the game away in regulation, but Craig Sword missed the front half of a one-and-one with eight seconds to go, and I.J. Ready lost the handle on a shot after an offensive rebound as well. With 1:13 to go in bonus time, Justin Coleman nailed a three pointer to give the Tide a 79-76 lead, and from there, Coleman made a pair of free throws and Riley Norris made one of his own to seal the win. Retin Obasohan powered Alabama with 25 points, while Gavin Ware had 28 off the bench for the Bulldogs.