News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Arkansas coach Stan Heath, left, celebrates with player Gary Ervin, center, and Sonny Weems following a 72-71 upset win over Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament in Atlanta on Friday.
AP photo by John Bazemore
Arkansas coach Stan Heath, left, celebrates with player Gary Ervin, center, and Sonny Weems following a 72-71 upset win over Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament in Atlanta on Friday.

Florida runs
away early

Arkansas advances to
meet Mississippi State

By Josh Cooper
and Bradley Handwerger 340-2460

ATLANTA — Florida played as good a 20 minutes of basketball it could possibly play in the first half.

Then the Gators made sure Georgia didn't mount a comeback as they took a 74-57 win in the second round of the SEC tournament.

Florida went on a 17-0 run in the first five minutes and entered halftime up 35-14 on the Bulldogs.

"I think that we really threw the first punch," Florida forward Joakim Noah said. "I'm not going to say it was a knockout punch, but it was a hard hook to the chin, and they had a hard time getting back from it."

Florida's highlight reel included a powerful block by forward Al Horford and a thread-the-needle, full-court pass from Noah to Corey Brewer for an uncontested layup.

"We want to peak at this time of year," said Florida guard Taurean Green, who led all scorers with 19 points. "Any given day we could come in and beat if we don't bring our 'A' game."

Horford had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Brewer scored 15.

Takais Brown led Georgia with 12, and Bill Humphrey scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Arkansas 72, Vanderbilt 71: The Razorbacks' Gary Ervin sank a jumper in the lane with 12 seconds to play, and Vanderbilt couldn't make an outside shot in the final seconds. As a result, Arkansas won its second game in two nights in the SEC tournament.

The Razorbacks (20-12), long thought out of the running of an NCAA tournament bid, will face Mississippi State in Saturday's noon semifinal for what could be a berth in the field of 65.

For Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, that could be the difference between a job next year and being fired.

The thought heading into the SEC tournament this week was that Heath needed his Arkansas team to blow through the brackets and secure an NCAA berth to keep his job.

Two days into SEC's postseason madness, Heath's boys are doing a pretty good job, having moved past South Carolina by 30 points and Vanderbilt by one. The Razorbacks now have two straight wins over the Commodores, having beaten them on the final day of the season.

"I would think, without a doubt, we would be one of those teams (in the NCAAs) if you watched us over the last week," Heath said.

"The thing is, right now, not to be premature and jump ahead. We have to win. We have to continue to win because you never know."

Patrick Beverly, the SEC freshman of the year, led Arkansas with 18 points. Sonny Weems added 17, and Charles Thomas had 11.

For Vanderbilt, Derrick Byars had 15. Shan Foster finished with 13, and Dan Cage had 12.

The Commodores now go into the NCAAs having lost two in a row and three of their past five games.

"We've got a little chip on our shoulder now," Cage said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to prepare well and perform when the time comes."

Ole Miss 80, LSU 60: Sounds of "hoddy toddy" echoed through the emptying cavernous Georgia Dome late Friday night. Ole Miss made it a Mississippi two-step, defeating LSU in the SEC tournament.

The Rebels join rival Mississippi State in the league semifinals. The Rebels will play Florida on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.

"I thought our guys came out with the proper approach," said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. "I thought we were really aggressive from the jump."

Ole Miss used its guard play — particularly the hot hand of Bam Doyne, who finished
with 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

"I was more open than I thought I was going to be," Doyne said. "I was confident, and I made some shots tonight."

Kenny Williams had 12 points, and Todd Abernethy chipped in 10 for Ole Miss.

The Bengal Tigers have been troubled all year by not having a solid point guard, a weakness that the Rebels exploited.

LSU power forward Glen Davis also never found his rhythm, finishing with six points on 1-of-8 shooting. He grabbed seven rebounds. Tasmin Mitchell led LSU with 15 points.

The Tigers might have been tired from Thursday night's overtime victory over Tennessee and appeared sluggish early as the Rebels went on a 14-2 run from 16:41 until 5:44 of the first half to push the score to 20-7.

Overall, the Rebels outscored the Tigers 37-17 in the first 20 minutes.

The closest LSU got in the second half was 14 points with 13:38 remaining.

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