With all of the great basketball games that transpired over the past few days, it’s strange that almost none of those great games happened in SEC play, where only the Arkansas-Tennessee and South Carolina-Georgia games could be classified as “entertaining.” Every other game ended with a margin of victory of 10 points or more, with the exception of Ole Miss-Florida (which was not as close as the final score indicated). Regardless of whether or not the games were entertaining as a whole, they all provided a large amount of entertaining plays and events.
Let’s take a look at five such moments:
Yante Maten’s milestone
Last year, as a sophomore, Yante Maten emerged as one of the SEC’s best players, as his 16.5 points and 8 rebounds per game helped the Georgia Bulldogs reach the semifinals of the SEC Tournament and the second round of the NIT. This year, his scoring prowess has been even more evident, as he has been scoring roughly 20 points every time he puts his feet on the hardwood. Against South Carolina last evening, Maten reached a milestone, scoring his 1,000th point as a Bulldog. It’s just another stepping stone in the career for a player whom many think could take home this year’s title as SEC Player of the Year.
Briscoe’s hustle and Monk’s dunk
It just wasn’t the Aggies’ night last Tuesday. Everything was clicking for Kentucky, and their defense emerged as a potent force for causing turnovers and stopping shots. In fact, the Wildcats forced 25 turnovers, leading to beaucoup fast break points—Kentucky’s specialty.
Perhaps the night’s best fast break play came early on, as a steal forced by Isaiah Briscoe led to a ferocious dunk from Malik Monk that capped off a 15-0 Kentucky run. The Cats ended up winning that game by 42 points.
Matthew Fisher-Davis’ monster night
No one expected that the Vanderbilt Commodores would beat Auburn as bad as they did on Wednesday night. Fresh off a win against LSU, the Commodores welcomed the Tigers into Memorial Gymnasium, treating Auburn to a 19-point drubbing.
The star of the night was none other than Matthew Fisher-Davis, who hit 7 three pointers en route to a 33-point night. The junior guard is Vandy’s scoring leader this season, and his performances in the Commodores’ first two SEC games is a big reason why they currently sit at 2-0 in conference play.
Sindarius Thornwell’s return
The South Carolina Gamecocks are still undefeated with Sindarius Thornwell in the lineup. Thornwell, who made his return on Wednesday night after a six-game suspension, racked up a double-double in his first game back. His 19 points and 11 rebounds were enough to help propel the Gamecocks to a road win over Georgia.
Thornwell’s return is certainly welcomed by anyone who is even tangentially fond of South Carolina or good basketball in general, as there’s a clear difference between this team when he is and isn’t in the lineup.
Xavian Stapleton’s sneaky reverse dunk
Alabama may have opened conference play with a win over Mississippi State on Tuesday night, but the game’s best play was performed by the Bulldogs’ Xavian Stapleton, whose backdoor cut set the stage for a reverse dunk to tie the ballgame. The Crimson Tide, however, would end up going on a 9-2 run of their own, helping them to a 68-58 win.
Stapleton, a Louisiana Tech transfer, is currently in his first season in Starkville after sitting out a year. Here’s hoping he provides us with even more stellar plays throughout the remainder of SEC play.
BONUS: Canyon Barry free throws
These are always fun to watch.