Player of the Week
Dee Bost, Mississippi State
Prior to Bost's return on January 8th, the Bulldogs were thoroughly non-competitive. Controversy was their only path to headline news, and team chemistry was a distant memory. By no means is this MSU club suddenly tournament caliber, but as they proved this week, with their leader back in the fold they are now a dangerous foe. In a tough seven-point defeat vs. Vanderbilt (led by four at half) Bost scored 18 points, albeit on 5-16 FG and 3-10 from downtown, with 6 assists 5 rebounds, 5-5 FT and just two turnovers. He followed up that effort by guiding the way to a 71-64 upset win over red hot Florida, scoring 24 points on 8-14 FG, 4-8 treys and 4-5 FT, dishing out 5 assists against one turnover and grabbing 3 boards. Bost has quickly regained sophomore season form, and has nearly single-handedly transformed Mississippi State into a .500 team in the SEC.
The Razorbacks shot 57% from the field in a stunning 89-78 road victory at Vanderbilt (13-point underdogs). Rotnei Clarke, who had been producing reserved efforts for the better part of a month, finally put forth one of his trademark explosions. Clarke scored 36 points in 33 minutes, knocking down 12-16 field goals, 6-8 trifectas and 6-7 from the charity stripe. Given the quality of competition, this performance likely supersedes his 51-point outburst (15-21 FG, 13-17 3PT) to open the 2009-2010 season vs. Alcorn State. However, his teammate Michael Sanchez didn’t allow him to steal the show entirely. After missing well over a full season with chronic foot problems, Sanchez's 9th game back in the rotation was a momentous one. He scored a career-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting, adding 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. His 33 minutes of action doubled his previous season-high court time of 14. Despite a 14-6 overall mark and 4-3 in conference play, Arkansas remains in a precarious position with an 82
RPI and 118 SOS.
With a roster dominated by underclassmen, expecting a total clunker from the Gamecocks on Saturday was not a farfetched concept. SC was vanquished at the hands of Auburn 79-64, on their home court no less, against a Tigers team that stood at 0-6 in conference play and had not shown a willingness to oppose all year. Indeed, the box score actually looks worse than the final margin. The Gamecocks were outrebounded 45-32, attempted an obscene 33 three-pointers (converting only 7) and were more than doubled up at the free throw line 34-16.
The Rebels were unable to find the bucket in Saturday's 17-point loss versus Tennessee, shooting 16-60 from the field (27%) and 3-19 (16%) from deep. Chris Warren connected on 6-21 from the floor, 3-11 from three-point range, missed his first FT in nine games and committed 3 turnovers against a lone assist, yet he is hardly an isolated culprit. None of his teammates were competent either: Terrance Henry 1-9, Dundrecous Nelson 1-7, Trevor Gaskins 1-5 and Nick Williams 2-7. In a word, Mississippi's offensive execution is dysfunctional.
Top 5 Upperclassmen Draft Prospects
1. Trey Thompkins, Georgia JR, #9 2011- Scoring and rebounding are a given (17 & 8), but he looks fitter than ever and active defensively (1.6 blocks).
2. Jeffrey Taylor, Vanderbilt JR, #31 2012- Hyper-athletic wing has improved his range (34%), now he needs to work on consistency and ball handling (2.8 TO).
3. Travis Leslie, Georgia JR, #33 2012- Highlight reel guard thrives away from the ball in the open floor. His creativity off the dribble and shot creation are still very raw attributes.
4. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt JR, #35 2012- Learning on the job, he's taken massive positive strides in a short period and become a legit post force. Needs to maintain aggression on glass (6).
5. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee JR, #37 2012- He's been a consistent scorer all season (17), but where's the rest of his game? A one-trick pony, at least at the collegiate level.
Honorable Mention: Ravern Johnson, Mississippi State SR, #35 2011- 35% from distance, ideal size for two-guard at 6'7.
Florida faces off against Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home this week, with huge SEC East implications on the line.
Alabama (13-7, 5-1) has won 3 straight and 8 of 9, however, the computers aren't finding favor in their achievements. The Tide's RPI is all but buried at 113.
LSU's Ralston Turner, who missed five games with a stress reaction in his foot, returned to score 4 points in 20 minutes of action on Saturday.
Festus Ezeli's fatal flaw has seen a minor correction in the last four games. He's knocked down 22 of his last 28 FT's (79%) and is now up to 63% on the year. Vanderbilt hit 25-26 from the line as a team vs. Arkansas, yet still managed to fall short.
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