Photo Essay: SEC Tourney Day 1

DULUTH, GA-- Four games and four teams gone already. VandyMania's Whitney D. gives us an exclusive look at the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Day 1. Vanderbilt will face the upset happy Florida Gators tonight.

In the first game of the day, the #9-seeded Auburn Tigers played the #8-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks. With a 6-8 conference record and an rpi of around 35, Auburn came into the tournament on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Midway through the second half, it looked like the Tigers would get the much-needed win.

But then the Gamecocks staged a comeback and tied the game with six minutes left. From then that point on, the game was a nailbiter but in the end, South Carolina prevailed 65-63. With the victory, the Gamecocks earned the right to play the Tennessee Lady Vols tomorrow.

Afterwards, a very-disappointed Nell Fortner said that they'll be playing in the post season somewhere, but it's up to the NCAA to decide whether they'll be in the NCAA tournament, or bound for the WNIT.

In the next game, #7-seeded Kentucky met #10-seeded Arkansas. Kentucky led most of the first half, but Arkansas stayed within single digits most of the way..

But Kentucky started the second half with a 13-2 run to take a 20-point lead, and Arkansas Coach Susie Gardner couldn't find a way to help her team climb all the way out of that deep hole. Kentucky's 72-57 victory means that they'll face the Georgia Lady Bulldogs on Friday.

In the first game of the night session, the #12-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide faced the Ole Miss Lady Rebels. The Alabama bench, including former Vanderbilt stars Ashley Earley, and Ashley McElhiney, didn't have much to smile about, as Ole Miss set new SEC tournament records with 25 steals and forcing 42 Alabama turnovers in the Lady Rebels' 78-49 victory.BR>

The ladies of "Carol's Court", an SEC tradition, was highly visible at the Ole Miss game. The word on the street is that they're the sisters of Ole Miss Head Coach Carol Ross. Her Lady Rebels will face LSU on Friday night.

But at the press conference after the game, with a smiling Carol Ross said, "I don't know those people!" even though she admitted that it's true that they look like her and have the same last name.

While the current Commodores behind them were scouting the Mississippi State-Florida game, former Dores Ashley McElhiney, Abi Ramsey, and Ashley Earley got a chance to visit for a few minutes.

The last game of the night the #6-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs met the #11-seeded Florida Gators. This game also had NCAA tournament implications. Sharon Fanning's Mississippi State Bulldog entered the tournament on the bubble, with a respectable 7-7 record in conference, but an iffy RPI of 70. A good run in the tournament would help their case considerably.

After losing their first 11 SEC games, Florida announced that Head Coach Carolyn Peck won't be back next season. After that, Florida won two of their last three SEC games. With an overall record of 8-21, Florida's last game in the tournament will be Peck's last game there.

After falling behind by eight points well into the second half, the Gators came back to tie the game, then go ahead. In the last few minutes, the Lady Bulldogs cut the lead to four points with 28 seconds left, but the Gators hit free throws down the stretch to upset the Bulldogs 69-63.

"I'm the happiest coach in America," Peck said in the post-game press conference, whose tenure at Florida will extend for at least one more game. As she talked about her team, she was almost overcome by the emotions of the moment.

With the victory, Florida advances to a quarter-final matchup with Vanderbiilt at 8:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on FSN.

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Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D for Top Stories