SEC Morning Five: 01.23.12 EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on January 23rd, 2012
- Jarnell Stokes has already been a huge factor for the Tennessee Volunteers, just three games into his collegiate career. It was Stokes’ 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks that helped the Vols defeat the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Saturday. Teammates certainly see the benefit of having him around. “Oh, gosh,” said junior guard Skylar McBee. “It’s great having Jarnell. He’s such a big presence in there.” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin saw enough in Stokes’ first two games to grant him his first career start against UConn. “He had some breakdowns defensively,” said Martin, “which is expected because he’s learning as we go. But I thought his energy, his toughness, his will to receive the ball and desire to score the ball really helped us get over the hump.” The addition of Stokes could be too late to gain any traction for the NCAA Tournament this season. The Vols are 9-10 overall, and 1-3 in conference play. However can Martin and Tennessee talk Stokes into one more year in Knoxville with all the attention he is receiving for his positive play?
- Senior Darius Miller has proven to be a reliable free throw shooter in the clutch for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Miller was 4-of-4 in the final minute of Kentucky’s 77-71 win over Alabama Saturday, making him a perfect 6-of-6 in the final three minutes on the season. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had nothing but praise for the veteran. “He is everything. He is [one of] the only seniors on this team, and he means a lot.” Miller picked a great game to step up at the charity stripe. Kentucky shot just 36.4% from the free throw line in the first half.
- Free throws were a big factor in another SEC game this weekend. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury felt the number of free throw attempts by his Bulldogs were key in their overtime win against Vanderbilt. “They shoot nine free throws and make five and we shoot 21 free throws,” Stansbury said. “That tells you that ball is being drove to the paint and thrown to the paint. We’re playing without creating a bunch of silly fouls. You’ve got to do that on the road to have a chance.” The Bulldogs finished with 14 points from the foul line, which was nine more than Vanderbilt.
- While there was a large discrepancy in made free throws, Vanderbilt had an opportunity to beat Mississippi State in overtime. Actually, they had three opportunities. Point guard Brad Tinsley was forced into two ill-advised shots because of the Bulldogs’ ability to cover up offensive threats John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. First, Tinsley took a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and then drove into the lane for a possession that the Commodores would love to have back. Tinsley shouldn’t receive all of the blame here though. The Vanderbilt blog, Anchor of Gold, says, “The ultimate failure here was pushing forward with a bad shot rather than resetting, regrouping, and using the team’s final timeout.” This isn’t the first time Kevin Stallings‘ management of late-game situations has been questioned. And for good reason. Vandy has lost its last six overtime games. Perhaps declaring the Commodores’ turnaround as an elite team was slightly premature.
- Arkansas‘ victory over Michigan was quite the statement for the Razorbacks, but the home court advantage provided by Bud Walton Arena makes the Razorbacks tough to beat at home. The atmosphere at Saturday’s game had to give Razorbacks fans visions of the mid-1990s. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees that Bud Walton provides an automatic advantage. “That atmosphere, with our players it takes us up eight or 10 points,” Anderson said. Arkansas is 14-0 at home this season, with home games against Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama coming up in the month of conference play.