Mar 2, 2012, Nashville, TN, USA; Florida Gators center Azania Stewart (13) goes up for a shot against Kentucky Wildcats forward Samarie alker (23) during the second round of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The Wildcats beat the Gators 71-67. Don McPeak-US Presswire.
There's probably a lot that could be said about the Kentucky Wildcats' 71-67 win over the Florida Gators.
However on a day on which a couple of the nation's top-ranked teams found themselves headed home early, the response from UK fans like Greg Alan Edwards of SB Nation's A Sea of Blue might be described as "relief".
So, sometimes it just doesn't matter what the score is, nor who did what, nor how something happened. You just take the win and move on. Thus we have the story of UK-Florida today. On a day where only one half of basketball was all you had, just make sure that it is the last half. And when it counted, Senior Amber Smith took this team of Wildcats in her hands and forced them to her will.
Although Wildcats guard A'Dia Mathies stands out in the boxscore for leading the team in scoring with a game-high 24 points after struggling in her last meeting with the Gators, Edwards suggests it was Smith whose poise and defensive focus who helped catalyze a 15-4 run that was critical to staying alive as the conference's #1 seed. Consistent with Edwards' observations, it was the 9.4% turnover differential - a trademark - that was most significant in tilting this game in Kentucky's favor statistically.
Kentucky now advances to face a LSU Tigers team that escaped a battle themselves with the Arkansas Razorbacks due to a huge block at the buzzer by versatile WNBA prospect LaSondra Barrett.
On the other side of the bracket, David Hooper of SB Nation's Rocky Top Talk writes that "the most ridiculously talented player on a very talented Lady Vols team" woke up to the tune of a game-high 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting to lead Tennessee to a 68-57 win against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
After a three point shot and a very rapid bucket-and-one immediately after to open up Tennessee's lead, Stricklen was alive in a way we hadn't seen in a long, long time. Vanderbilt suddenly had no answer for Shekinna, who scored all of her 18 points in the second half after missing most of the first half due to two early fouls. It would be easy to take the final ten minutes of the game and simply call it an awakening for Tennessee, but the nearly 15 minutes of struggle that allowed Vanderbilt to eliminate a 19-point lead can't be ignored...But boy, did it ever feel good to see the old Stricklen again.
From absent to ridiculously talented enough to lead her team to a victory that was good enough to advance: a quintessential Stricklen performance.
Aside from Stricklen waking up, Hooper highlights poor shooting by Vanderbilt as significant in the outcome of this game. The Commodores shot 4-for-23 from the 3-point line, which contributed to the 15.9% shooting efficiency differential in the Lady Vols' favor.
SEC Tournament Day Three schedule
- 3 p.m. CST: Kentucky vs. LSU
- 5 p.m. CST: Tennessee vs. Georgia Bulldogs/South Carolina Gamecocks winner
For complete information on the 2012 SEC Tournament, visit SECDigitalNetwork.com. Click here to see the full 2012 SEC Tournament bracket (in .pdf format). For updated box scores and other statistics, visit WBB State's SEC Conference Tournament page.