Walker, Pippen Watch Razorbacks Win
The Tigers - 12-19 during the regular season and just 4-14 in SEC action - have defied the odds by taking down Mississippi State on Wednesday, Texas A&M on Thursday and LSU 73-70 in overtime on Friday.
Georgia secured that final berth by downing South Carolina 74-62 in Friday night’s last quarterfinal.
No. 1 Kentucky (32-0) will face Auburn (14-19) in a noon semifinal while No. 21 Arkansas (25-7) meets Georgia (21-10) in the other in e rematch of a game the Razorbacks won 79-75 in Athens back on Jan. 6.
“They (the Razorbacks) have a great basketball team, a nationally-ranked basketball team, they have got the best player in the conference (Bobby Portis) leading them and it will be a big challenge for our boys,” noted Georgia head coach Mark Fox.
Marcus Thornton had 15 points and 8 rebounds to lead Georgia in its win Friday night while Yante Maten had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Charles Mann 12 points, Nemanja Djurisic 11 and J.J, Frazier and the injured Kenny Gaines 9 each for the Bulldogs.
Georgia's game didn’t end until around 11 p.m.
“The hardest thing about tomorrow will be the quick turnaround,” Fox said. “It is a challenge. We diid it a year ago and played Kentucky pretty close until midway through the second half so we will have to do a few things different to try and just stay physically ready to go.”
Fox mentioned he couldn’t remember a lot about the earlier game with Arkansas other than Gaines got hurt with his team ahead.
Portis lead the way for Arkansas with 21 points while Michael Qualls had 17 and Alandise Harris 15 in that contest.
“We have been through so much since we played Arkansas I can hardly remember it,” Fox said. “I remember Kenny broke his wrist when we were up eight.”
Gaines is battling a foot injury right now and played 27 minutes after being a game-time decision.
“We waited as long as we could, right up until we had to turn the starting line ups in and we asked Kenny if he wanted to go for it and he did,” Fox said. “I don’t know if he will be able to go tomorrow or not to be honest with you. He has not practiced.
“…Will he be able to bounce back after playing 27 minutes? He is a tough rascal now, but I’m not sure,” Fox added. “We’ll just have to see how much it swells and how he feels in the morning.”
Thornton was proud of his teammate.
“It was great to have him there and he absolutely had to tough it out to play for us today,” Thornton said. “It was a great testament to not only him, but our team. We have a team with a bunch of fighters.”
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Arkansas native and former NBA great Scottie Pippen gave Arkansas’ players new Air Pippen 6 shoes to play in the tournament and also sit behind the bench during the Razorbacks’ win.
Although he played his entire career in the SWC, former Razorback great Darrell Walker was honored as one of the SEC Legends on Friday night during the game.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“Well, we had a pretty emotional visit in the locker room after the game,” Pearl said. “Just really proud of my kids. Just God’s blessed us. He kept us together through really difficult times and and through adversity and losing. We never broke up, we never quit.
“You don’t always get reward for doing that,” Pearl added. “Sometimes you don’t give up and you keep playing hard and you don’t win, but in this case we have been blessed.”
K.T. Harrell - the SEC’s leading scorer - had 29 points in the game, including 15 in a row during the course of the second half and overtime.
He hit a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer to send it into overtime and then helped his team finish off the upset.
“I knew Coach was going to draw up a play for me to get the three ball,” Harrell said. “I really didn’t think about them fouling. That probably would have been the smarter move. But I got a clear look and knocked it down.”
Pearl said during the season that his team could beat anybody in the league but Kentucky, who beat Florida 63-49 on Friday afternoon.
“The reason I said that was because I truly wanted them to believe that we could beat Ole Miss or LSU or Arkansas or Georgia,” Pearl said. “Because to just say we could beat any team in the league, I don’t know that would be 100 percent.
“So we have this opportunity to go play against the most storied program in the history of college basketball, the best team in the country and in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament,” Pearl added. “We will try to represent.”
Auburn will be without Jordan Granger, who was ejected on Friday for throwing a punch.
“We’re going to be short-handed,” Pearl continued. “We’re already the smallest team in the league, and probably the smallest team in all of the major conferences going up against the biggest team maybe in the history of Division I basketball. So it’s a tough match-up for the Tigers.”
Former NBA great and Arkansas native Scottie Pippen congratulates Bobby Portis on the win.