Game 1 - [E5] South Carolina 77, [W4] LSU 73
ATLANTA (AP) -- South Carolina broke open a tight game with a 19-5 run and Dave Odom's retirement plans were put on hold as the Gamecocks beat LSU 77-73 in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday.
South Carolina hit six 3-pointers after trailing 43-41 early in the second half.
Evaldas Baniulis, a sophomore from Lithuania who reached double figures in only three regular-season games, had 16 points for South Carolina (14-17). Mike Holmes also had 16 and Dominique Archie added 15.
LSU led 54-52 before South Carolina took control, scoring 19 of 24 points for a 71-59 lead with 3:05 left. Baniulis had two 3-pointers during the run.
Odom announced in January he would retire at the end of his seventh season as South Carolina's coach. He'll get at least one more game with the Gamecocks advancing to play regular-season champion Tennessee in the quarterfinals Friday.
The Tigers (13-18) cut the deficit to 74-70 on Chris Johnson's put-back with 39 seconds left. Following two free throws by South Carolina's Devan Downey, LSU's Alex Farrer hit a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to make it 76-73.
South Carolina's Dwayne Day missed two free throws with 18.9 seconds left, giving LSU a chance. Marcus Thornton missed a 3 and the Tigers grabbed the rebound, but South Carolina's Zam Frederick stole it away with 3.1 seconds left to preserve the win.
Anthony Randolph led LSU with 22 points. Thornton added 17 and Johnson 13.
Baniulis had four 3-pointers overall, including three in the second half. Frederick and Downey each had 12 points, giving South Carolina five players in double figures.
The Gamecocks were accused of giving up in their 89-56 loss at No. 4 Tennessee in the regular-season finale, but they played tough in building a 31-21 first-half lead against LSU.
Day hit two 3-pointers in the opening period for the Gamecocks, who settled for a 37-34 halftime advantage.
Key run: trailing 57-56 with 7:15 remaining, South Carolina went on a 15-2 run for a 71-59 lead at the 3:03 mark.
The Fighting Tigers made a spirited comeback, coming to within 76-73, and had a chance to tie in the closing seconds but Marcus Thornton missed a three-pointer. LSU's Chris Johnson grabbed the rebound, but USC's Zam Fredrick stole the ball from Johnson, was fouled, and added a free throw with three seconds left to make the final score 77-73.
Key stat: South Carolina capitalized points off turnovers, 26-3. LSU committed 19 turnovers while South Carolina had only eight miscues. South Carolina is the stingiest turnover team in the SEC, averaging just 10.7 giveaways per game.
South Carolina advances to the quarterfinals on Friday, March 14, at 1 p.m. vs. Tennessee, the SEC regular season champion. The Volunteers defeated the Gamecocks twice during the season, 80-56 in Columbia on Jan. 12 and 89-56 in Knoxville on March 9.
South Carolina Notes:
South Carolina is 14-17 overall.
South Carolina now has an all-time record of 16-16 in the SEC Tournament.
South Carolina had a balanced offense, with five players scoring in double figures. Five Gamecocks also hit double figures in an 85-82 win over College of Charleston on Dec. 22.
Devan Downey had an excellent floor game for USC. Downey tied his career high for assists with 11, the second time this season he has reached that mark. The 5-9 Downey also paced the Gamecocks in rebounds with seven boards.
Sophomore Dominique Archie made his 61st consecutive start, every game over the last two seasons.
LSU is 13-18 overall, losing the final two games of the season.
Interim Coach Butch Pierre went 5-5 during his term as the Tiger head coach, all against SEC opponents.
LSU is 42-48 in SEC Tournament history, including 21-29 since the renewal in 1979.
LSU is 7-9 in games played in the Georgia Dome, including 5-9 in SEC Tournament action.
LSU shot 50 percent from the field. This is the first game this season that LSU lost when making at least half their shots. The Tigers went 6-1 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
LSU dominated the rebounding, 42-27. The margin of +15 was the Tigers' best against a conference opponent this season.
The Tigers had balanced scoring with five players with double figures, the second time they accomplished that this season. Ironically, LSU also lost its other game with five double-figure scorers, an 87-84 overtime setback against Arizona State in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21.
Freshman Anthony Randolph paced the Tigers with 22 points. It is his ninth 20-point game of the season.
Center Chris Johnson had 13 points and 14 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season.
South Carolina Postgame Quotes:
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Odom for some overall thoughts on the game and then take your questions just for the three student athletes, then we'll excuse them to the locker room.
COACH ODOM: Well, in typical fashion we made it interesting at the end. We rarely ever win with ease going away looking over our shoulder into the sunset. That rarely ever happens.
You know, today was business as usual for us with the exception that we were able to hang on and win the basketball game. I've got to give our team a lot of credit for that, I really do. They've experienced a lot of difficulties during the year, and today, fortunately, going into the last three minutes of play, we had enough cushion to survive and we had enough free throws to survive. We stopped them just enough times to survive. So I give our team a lot of credit.
And it really was a team effort. But at the same time, I want to give LSU a lot of credit, particularly Butch Pierre. My goodness, what a difficult job he had in assuming control of the head coaching position at LSU. I don't know when it was, 1st of February, something like that. And what a marvelous job he did. That's not an easy thing. I thought he had his team prepared each and every night that I saw him play, and today was no exception. He's done a really good job, and as I told him after the game, I told the coaching staff, I hope things work out for them at LSU. I'm not trying to hire a coach there or anything like that, but I think he deserves serious consideration, and I'm sure he'll get that, and if it works out for him, I certainly wish him well.
And when you look at LSU's team and kind of project into next year, I told our team, and they'll vouch for me, I told them that they are one of the up and coming teams in the SEC for next year. They'll have a senior on that team, Tasmin Mitchell scares you to death sitting over there on the bench. You're afraid they're going to put him in any minute. They've had a good recruiting year, so future is very bright for Tiger basketball.
I just appreciate everybody calling my guys student athletes (laughter).
Q. Zam, can you talk about that last play when LSU misses a three? You get the ball off the floor and all that action.
ZAM FREDRICK: Marcus threw into the deep three-pointer, and I saw it was long and I just tried to get back in on the action, just to get my hands on the ball. I happened to knock it loose from one of the big men, I can't remember which one it was, and I was going to throw it down the court but I was afraid to turn it over, so I just held onto it and got the foul called.
Q. This is for both of you guys. I think you were something like 4 of 28 when you went into that 13 two run, ten minutes to go or so. I saw you, Devan, get kind of fired up when the shots started falling. Can you talk about that run and how you two played into it?
DEVAN DOWNEY: Your question is how we felt during the run?
Q. Yeah, because you had struggled so much to that point shooting the ball.
DEVAN DOWNEY: It just felt good to finally hit a shot. I felt like I didn't shoot it good from the field. But like Coach told me before the game you can have a good game without making shots, so I found my teammates and contributed in other areas of the game.
ZAM FREDRICK: My shot wasn't falling early, either, as we all know. But I just tried to make sure I concentrated more on defense. I had to run around with Marcus, throw it the whole game, try to focus my energy there, and when I got shots I was going to take them. Unfortunately I wasn't making them. And then when I made a couple I usually score in bunches and I just tried to do what I could to help my team win.
Q. Can you guys talk about when you guys were down a couple there in the second half? Tell us about what was going through your mind and how you were feeling, man, this could be our last game? Could you talk about that?
ZAM FREDRICK: When we went down in the second half? We just rallied together. Next time-out we had, we felt we were still in it. We were down three. The time we went down by five or seven, all we knew we needed was to make one shot, make a shot to cut it down and make stops. We was focusing our efforts on defense. We knew if we could keep them from scoring eventually we was going to make shots, and once we started making them then we got on a run and we went up.
DEVAN DOWNEY: During the run it was kind of crazy because it was all five guys telling each other, we're still in it, let's get some stops. Once we were able to establish ourselves on defense, the offense game. Instead of trading baskets let's get some stops. Eventually when you get enough stops you're going to score.
MIKE HOLMES: I think we did pretty good. We got a lot of stops. The Coach told us that's the key to our offense, so we did that and it came out positive for us.
Q. Talk a little bit about Marcus Thornton and how you defended him, Zam and Devan?
ZAM FREDRICK: I knew I had to keep contact with Marcus all game. He can shoot it from deep, he can put it on the floor, so just play him straight, make it difficult for him. Make him do things he don't want to do. As on offensive player, I think -- like a defensive player, too, you have to be able to counter the things they do, attack him on the defensive end and make him do things that you can defend well. So I just tried to stay close to him and guard him as close as I could and make it difficult.
DEVAN DOWNEY: Marcus Thornton, he's a great offensive player. The game plan, some teams go in saying we want to keep guys under average. Our game plan, we want to make them shoot a low percentage. If you shoot the ball -- not saying he did, but if you shoot the ball enough times you're going to get your average. The game plan was just make it as hard as possible, make him shoot those 30-footers. If he can come off a ball screen and hit a contested 30-footer we'll leave with it. So I just think Zam did a great job making him throw the ball, and every time he scored, he earned it.
Q. Devan, you guys have to turn around and play a Tennessee team that has a lot of depth and plays at a fast pace. How much do you think this game took out of you today?
DEVAN DOWNEY: I mean, every game takes something out of you but for the rest of the day we've just got to eat and rest and get ready. Tennessee is a good team. They've beaten us twice. Like Coach said, we've played two good halves against them, the first half in both games. And the second half we've kind of let it slip. So the mindset tomorrow is put two halves together, go out and compete. It's not really that hard. We've got to go out and compete and match their intensity.
Q. The last game against Tennessee JaJuan Smith, he made the all SEC defensive team, he made one basket. What's the mindset when you go up against a stopper like that that was able to control you like he did the last meeting?
DEVAN DOWNEY: I had eight assists in the first half, so if it happens again and I can get eight assists, I'll take it. I don't have to score the basketball. I think I scored so much early in the year, now when I don't score people thinks something's wrong, but like Coach said, you don't have to score to have a good game.
COACH ODOM: I do think it's important, it's not something Devan would say, I think he tied his career high with assists today at 11. What he tells you is real, is true. You know, he, Zam, Michael, all of them have the ability to do things that help win basketball games other than score, and I think that statistic, 11 assists today, tying your career high, personifies that.
Q. You stuck with Baniulis when he was 1 for 6 from the three-point line and you were using man-to-man defense and Dwayne Day is a senior. What was your thought process of keeping him in there, and what did you think when he hit those three straight threes?
COACH ODOM: Evka has been shooting the ball very well in the last week to ten days. He went through a period where he was not. Dwayne has not shot the ball well in the last two weeks. He has not. It was difficult to pull Dwayne today in one way and it was not difficult in a another. When you look at decisions like that, you do what's best for the team, not for individuals.
Dwayne totally understood. I think also that today was a match-up decision. Evka has a chance to guard Alex Farrer. I don't know that he has a chance to guard JaJuan Smith on a regular basis, you see. And I looked at LSU, I'm saying, defensively we've got a chance. And that really is what I look at more than I do the offense, are we going to be outmatched anywhere and can we compensate. I think Evka more than held his own from that standpoint today. I knew if we just stuck with him long enough, he'll make shots. So will Zam. Those are the two guys that are kind of an X-factor from an offensive standpoint.
We needed shots today. Last time we played them I think we scored 56 points. That's not enough to win an SEC game. It's not. As a matter of fact, it's probably enough to win an ACC game, just not enough to win an SEC game (laughter). Barnhart won't miss that. That will be up there. I'll catch all kinds of mess when I do get to the beach (laughter).
56 is not enough to win in this league night in and night out, unless you play really good defense. We don't. This team does not. We did play better today.
It was more of a match-up decision, really.
Q. You just touched on it right there, this isn't a team that's played consistent defense all year, and LSU's players and coach really credited what you guys did today. I think you even slipped in a zone that you really hadn't much this year. What does it kind of mean that you kind of won this game by defence?
COACH ODOM: We did run a couple things that were different today. It won't be a secret tomorrow because Tennessee saw the game today. Unless we go back to the hotel and put something else in, they've seen everything we've done, so it won't be a secret.
I think today was won on both ends of the court, really. Defensively we did have some good runs until LSU figured it out, and again, you've got to give Butch a lot of credit for that, he and his staff put together a good offensive plan at halftime. What worked in the first half defensively didn't in the second half. We added a second defense in the second half which did help us. So defensively, you know, I'll go back and I'll sell that to our team, and perhaps it'll give us a few more possessions tomorrow perhaps out of Tennessee.
Q. I think two years ago, I think Tennessee beat you twice during the regular season when you knocked them out of the SEC Tournament. Do you see any similarities to two years ago, and just how tough is it to win three times against an opponent?
COACH ODOM: Well, only in that the scenario is set up for that. I mean, they did beat us twice. We did beat them in the second round. But everything is different. Their team is much better, much better. Ours is not. We're not as good a team at this time as we were that particular night. Remember, that's a team that beat Florida twice during the regular season. It was a team of veterans, it was a team that had actually been together for a couple of years, and it was a team that actually had two NBA players, although we didn't know it at the time, playing on that team, and a third I think will make it, Tre Kelly. So it was a team that was a little bit more together. Not that this team's not, it's just a younger team.
So from that standpoint, the scenario of second time with Tennessee is true, but as I said to the media yesterday, Tennessee is the overwhelming favorite to win this tournament. I mean, they have proven over the course of the conference season to be the best team. They played the second best, maybe the best schedule in the country. They are expertly coached, and they have good depth. They hurt you at every position, and they play confident. Their style is different than any other team -- every other team in our league, every other team. Nobody plays the style they play. It's a quick turnaround for us.
The only advantage probably we have is that we just played them Saturday, and I am going to talk to our team between now and 1:00 o'clock tomorrow relentlessly about the first half. I'm going to show them that over and over and over again because that's what it will take for us to be in the game the last two minutes. We've got to play like that for 40 minutes.
They're capable of doing that. I'm talking about Tennessee. Tennessee is capable of playing 40 minutes.
Is our team capable of playing that? That's what we have to do in order to be in the game. We have to play like that for 40 minutes.
Q. Was there anything that you saw today that would make you feel more confident about how you can play and compete with Tennessee tomorrow?
COACH ODOM: Well, I think any time you win a conference tournament game, an opening round game, and I've told our team, the only advantage about not getting a bye is you get an opportunity to get the opening game jitters out of the way.
I think that's more important for teams like us than it is for, say -- well, Tennessee, for instance. I am certain Tennessee does not fear South Carolina. Respect us, I think they do. But they don't fear us.
I don't think they fear anybody in this tournament.
The teams that have problems in the opening round are those that have had good seasons, barely. In other words, they've won a bunch of games to finish third, maybe second in one of the two divisions. And those teams are nervous in the first round. Those teams that are bubble teams, if you will, they're nervous as heck. Tennessee is not nervous. They're not nervous. They're confident, they're relaxed, and they'll run. They would like a circus atmosphere tomorrow, alley-oops, dunks behind the head, their tails fall off, pick them up, throw them on their arms and let's go. That's what they want. They're not nervous.
You know, their future for next week is secure.
Q. Knowing this is a one and done situation in this tournament, what's your feeling that you get to coach this team one more day?
COACH ODOM: I'm thankful. Listen, I've been blessed. The Lord gave me one more day. I'm going to enjoy it. I go into tomorrow with no fear, no trepidation, nothing. I'm not anxious about it at all. I don't wish it were an hour from now. I'm going to enjoy the next, whatever that is, 20 hours, between now and then. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of that. Hope I don't sleep tonight so I can stay awake and think about it, go back in there and wake my wife up and say, "Hey, let me tell you something." I want 20 hours of no sleep. I'll probably get it (laughter).
Q. Is there anything match-up-wise that you think you could do differently against Tennessee after you played them that you came away thinking, hey, maybe we can try this or that?
COACH ODOM: Not really. You know, as I said yesterday, it's no secret, my belief is that Tennessee, they create the tempo of the game with their defense. Their offense feeds on their defense. They tease you from three, and they beat you from five. I mean, that's what they do. They make you guard them at three so they can score at five feet. And somehow we know that we've got to find a way to guard them at both. Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith both can beat us. They scored, what, 28 and 22 last weekend? 50 points. They got 50 points. We only got 56 ourselves or something like that. I mean, come on. So you have to guard them at three. But in truth, I mean, it's the second shots, it's the offensive rebounds, it's the tipped dunks, it's the running lay-ups across the breaks that really beat you. We've got a better chance of guarding them inside of five than we do at the three. We've got the dome; maybe they don't shoot well. Maybe. The best chance we've got is to make them miss. We can't sit back and hope they miss. We've got to be aggressive with that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
LSU Postgame Quotes:
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Pierre for some overall thoughts on the game and then we'll take your questions just for the two student athletes and then we'll excuse them back to the locker room and then we'll finish up with Coach.
COACH PIERRE: I think South Carolina and Coach Odom, they did a good job. They prepared for us. The team hit some timely baskets and made some plays when they needed to at certain points of the ballgame.
You know, I'm just proud of our guys, the way we fought through a time of adversity and put ourselves in a position where we had an opportunity to not only play in this game but have an opportunity to win it. You know, they made some shots down the stretch and built a lead, and we were able to come back. The game went back and forward.
I thought one of the biggest key statistics of the game was -- and we hadn't been doing this, is we had 19 turnovers, and those 19 turnovers obviously were some easy transition baskets for South Carolina.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for either of the student athletes.
Q. How was South Carolina able to dictate the tempo? It looked like they had the game at their speed, especially in the second half.
ANTHONY RANDOLPH: The Coach and the team just had a great game plan and they followed it to a tee. They just did a good job this game of getting us out of our stuff.
MARCUS THORNTON: We had played them probably no longer than two weeks ago, so they kind of had a good general idea of what we was going to do, and they just executed on defense, and we just missed a couple baskets, easy shots, that gave them easy buckets on their side.
Q. Obviously you came in a very hot team. You've had a tough year, but how disappointing is this because you were planning to make some noise because of the way you played heading into this tournament.
ANTHONY RANDOLPH: I mean, it's disappointing any time you lose. I mean, all the stuff that we did before the SEC Tournament, it doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. It's zero-zero when you come in, and that showed today. South Carolina just played a great game.
MARCUS THORNTON: You know, any game, you play outside with the kids and you lose and it hurts. We have to rebuild, come back next year and rebuild on the things that we had this year and just get better and get better as a unit.
Q. Anthony, will your decision to stay here or go pro have anything to do with who the next coach may be at LSU? Will that affect your decision?
ANTHONY RANDOLPH: Like I said, Coach Pierre has been a great mentor to me on and off the court. Yeah, it's going to affect my decision. But like I said earlier, I love LSU, I love playing with my team and my teammates, and as you can see I'm having fun out there. I love LSU. It's not just about one person.
Q. Coach mentioned the turnovers. What did South Carolina do, if anything, differently, or why were they able to force so many turnovers?
ANTHONY RANDOLPH: They just played great defense. They doubled down a lot when they threw the ball in the post. They played passing lanes very well, and they just got into our wing players. They just played great defense.
MARCUS THORNTON: I don't think they did anything too different. At certain points of the game I just figured we ain't executing like we usually do. That took a toll in the game in the final minute or whatever, whatever time they had left.
Q. For Marcus, how good a look did you get on that final three and just your thoughts on that final shot?
MARCUS THORNTON: I felt like I had enough space to get it off or whatever, and I thought -- like I shoot every shot, I thought it had a chance of going in. Obviously it didn't. You know, it just went off by a little bit. But we had another chance, and I think Chris got fouled but they didn't call it, so whatever happened, happened.
Q. You're coming here on a great streak of scoring. Did South Carolina do anything different to you than they did the last game?
MARCUS THORNTON: Well, towards the end of the game they tried to go box and one, you know, keep a man in my face or whatever. They was able to free up open players on my team, and that's all it was, just a box and one.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse you. You can return to the locker room. Thank you. We will continue on with questions for the Coach.
Q. The same thing I asked them about the turnovers, did South Carolina do anything different or better, or you talked about they play a lot of kind of tricky defenses. What did they do to get you guys out of rhythm?
COACH PIERRE: I think he made some pretty good adjustments. They made some 1-3-1 zone and they normally don't do that. But we were prepared for it, and we got some good looks. Any time we shoot 50 percent from the floor and 78 from the line and make some threes, our defense is usually good enough to not only be in games, to win the game.
I thought on the offensive end, they made some timely baskets, they got some open looks that they didn't get the first time, and also, I see where we only blocked one shot. And I think the one blocked shot was because last time we played them, they forced it inside and their big men inside challenged Chris and Anthony, whereas tonight they kind of slid them away from the goal, and when they slid them away from the goal, they hit those 14-foot, 15-foot jump shots. Holmes hit some timely baskets throughout the game.
Q. What are you feeling right now? Do you feel that you're at the end of something, or do you really know how to feel at this point?
COACH PIERRE: Well, you know, I feel for our players because they were very excited, looking forward to playing in this tournament. You know, I tried to tell them, and I did tell them, that the score is tied at zero-zero when it starts in the win-loss column, and you've got to go out there and win the game because it's just not going to happen. So I feel for them.
But like I told them in the locker room when the game was over, they came a long way from a 1 and 7 team to be in a position to have some momentum late in the season and in the Southeast Conference, and to win your last five out of six games and be able to be in this position, this is the only reason that you have a chance at beating -- winning the game.
We had our chances. The game was manageable. Just in the second half, in a stretch during that gain, made some big baskets and kind of separated and we didn't respond. But we still had a chance in the end to tie the ballgame.
Q. Can you talk about Anthony's progression this season, and at this point do you think it would be beneficial for him to come back next year and stay with LSU?
COACH PIERRE: Well, Anthony made some progress. I know we talked about the other team. He kind of rushed it early on as far as a couple of traveling calls. He had six turnovers and that's uncharacteristic for him, and Chris.
But as far as him coming back to LSU next year, I spent a lot of time with him and his family and his high school coach, and that decision is based upon Anthony Randolph and his family. I guess we'll all kind of sit down and discuss where he is. It's like anything else, he needs to continue to grow. He's got a lot of room to improve both mentally and physically, and I guess it's going to determine on exactly what his family wants to do.
My gut feeling, I think he will be back. But that evaluation process, I guess, will be over the next couple of months.
Q. How many times in your coaching career have you been at the end of a season and not really known what you're going to be doing next season?
COACH PIERRE: Never, because I'll be coaching somewhere (laughing). You know, one of the things about Butch Pierre is that I'm a very confident person, confident coach, now I'm a confident head coach in terms of recruiting, also. You know, I'm just going to get back home with my wife and my family and talk about things and see what happens.
Q. You took over a tough situation ten games ago, made a lot of great strides. Overall how did you feel about your head coaching job, and do you feel like you deserved to be back?
COACH PIERRE: Well, you know, like I said before, I thank LSU and the administration for giving me this opportunity. I loved it, I enjoyed it. Even though it was a time of adversity working there, you never want to see that happen to anybody, Coach Brady, a friend of mine who I've been working with for 11 years.
Under the circumstances it was tough. A lot of times when guys become a head coach it's an easy transition for them because it's usually at a mid-major school and all the lights and TV is not showing on you, so you've got a lot of chances for error or to make mistakes. I didn't have a lot of opportunity to make mistakes. I thought I did well, and the kids did extremely well in adapting and being coachable. We made progress, and that's what coaching is all about, to help these young men become model citizens. In the meantime you have to win games, particularly in the Southeast Conference and LSU because that's the highest level in college I can't tell sports.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
Game 2 - [E3] Vanderbilt 93, [W6] Auburn 82
ATLANTA (AP) -- Shan Foster played like the Southeastern Conference player of the year. A.J. Ogilvy was even better.
Ogilvy scored a career-best 27 points and Foster added 26 after being named the top player on the coaches' All-SEC team earlier in the week, leading No. 18 Vanderbilt past Auburn 93-82 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday.
The Commodores (26-6) shot 67 percent (33 of 49) from the field, falling just short of the tournament record. They advanced to face Arkansas in the quarterfinals Friday.
Auburn (14-16) will miss out on a postseason berth for the fifth year in a row.
Ogilvy, a 6-foot-11 freshman from Australia, teamed with Foster to provide a devastating inside-outside punch for the Commodores.
The big center made 12 of 13 shots, nearly all of them gimmes after he got loose underneath. He did step outside to hit one long jumper with his foot on the 3-point line.
Foster, the SEC's leading scorer, handled most of the outside shooting, making 6 of 9 from beyond the arc to add another notch to his brilliant season. The 6-6 senior reached 20 points in his sixth straight game and 19th overall.
Vanderbilt built a double-digit lead 5 1/2 minutes into the game, and was comfortably out front most of the first half with the Big Two leading the way. Foster had 19 points and Ogilvy 14 by halftime.
Auburn got a taste of what it was in for right from the start. Ogilvy scored on his first three shots, then Foster swished a 3. After Ogilvy slipped inside for another easy basket, Alex Gordon connected on a 3 that made it 14-4 and forced Tigers coach Jeff Lebo to call a quick timeout.
The Commodores shot 76 percent in the first half and tailed off just a bit over the final 20 minutes. They would have broken the tournament mark for field-goal percentage in a game if not for a botched dunk by little-used George Drake in the final minute with the outcome already decided.
Kentucky still holds the record (68.3 percent) from its 101-100 victory over Alabama in 1979.
Vanderbilt is trying to improve on a mostly dismal history in the SEC tournament, which included six losses in seven previous meetings against Auburn. The Commodores' lone championship came in 1951 - the only time they have reached the final.
Auburn, which trailed 47-36 at halftime, closed to 61-56 on a 3-pointer by Lucas Hargrove with 11 1/2 minutes remaining. But Vanderbilt scored the next 10 points to put it away, with Foster contributing a jumper and a layup before Gordon capped the spurt with two free throws.
Rasheem Barrett scored 20 points to lead four Auburn players in double figures. Senior Frank Barrett chipped in with 17 before fouling out of his final college game with less than a minute to go.
The Tigers, who struggled to deal with Vanderbilt's superior size, also lost Quan Prowell to fouls. He picked up his fifth with nearly 12 minutes remaining in a futile attempt to block a shot by Ross Neltner.
Gordon had 14 points and Neltner 10 to add a little balance to the Commodores' offense.
Vanderbilt jumped out to a 17-6 lead and never trailed in the game.
VU led 47-34 at halftime, shooting a blazing 76 percent in the opening period. The 47 points are Vanderbilt's most in the first half against an SEC opponent this season.
Auburn got as close as five in the second half, 61-56, before Vanderbilt went on a 10-0 run to lead 71-56. The Commodores led comfortably the rest of the way.
Vanderbilt's 93 points is the most the Commodores have ever scored in an SEC Tournament game. Their previous best came in an 88-52 win over Tennessee in the 1951 tourney.
Vanderbilt advances to the tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 14, at 3:15 p.m. vs. Arkansas. Arkansas defeated Vanderbilt, 78-73, on March 1 in Fayetteville.
The first session attendance was 12,659.
Vanderbilt is 26-6 overall and has won nine of the last 11 games.
Vanderbilt is 29-45 all-time in the SEC Tournament, including 2-6 vs. Auburn. Vanderbilt is 7-11 in the tourney when played in Atlanta, including 5-8 in the Georgia Dome.
Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Auburn, 78-51.
VU shot a 67.3 percent from the field, highest by an SEC team this season. It was close to the SEC Tournament record of 68.3 percent by Kentucky vs. Alabama in 1979.
Vanderbilt used its size advantage to dominate points in the paint, 40-26.
Vanderbilt got 27 assists on its 33 baskets. The 27 assists ties VU's season high. Jermaine Beal led the way with seven assists and Andre Walker added a career-high six assists.
Shan Foster notched 26 points, his sixth-consecutive 20-point game.
Freshman A. J. Ogilvy tallied a career-high 27 points. His previous high was 26 points against Lipscomb. Ogilvy made 12 of 13 field goals, a career best for field goals made.
Auburn is 14-16 overall and has lost five in a row.
Auburn is 26-45 all-time in the SEC Tournament, including 22-28 since the renewal in 1979. Auburn is 6-2 vs. Vanderbilt in SEC Tournament games.
In the four seasons that Jeff Lebo has been head coach of Auburn, the Tigers have met Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament three times. The teams split the two previous meetings.
The Tiger coaches wore orange ribbons on their lapels in honor of Auburn freshman Lauren Burk, who died on March 4 in Auburn.
Auburn is 38-68 all-time in games played in Atlanta, including 6-10 in SEC Tournament play.
Auburn's 12 three-point field goals tied the Tigers' season high, achieved on two previous occasions.
Four Tigers scored in double figures. Rasheem Barrett led the way with 20 points, his fifth 20-point effort of the season.
Vanderbilt Postgame Quotes:
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach for some overall thoughts on the game, then we'll go to the student athletes for question and answers. Then they'll return to the locker room and we'll finish up with Coach.
COACH STALLINGS: Well, it's always an interesting game when you play Auburn because there are challenges, and obviously there are challenges for them, too, and we were able to utilize our advantages I thought today, namely these two guys here, and especially A.J.
I thought our team did a great job of moving the ball and being patient with it and getting it inside. We really kind of made an emphasis on not taking, at least with some guys, not taking quick threes early in the clock and being more patient and trying to get the ball to A.J. as much as we could. I thought our guys really bought into the game plan and executed it very well. So that was really kind of the difference in the game.
We were able to get Prowell in foul trouble and he's a very good player, obviously having to play out of position, and when we were able to get him in foul trouble, even though it caused us problems defensively because now they had five -- really had five guards in the game, still, we had enough advantages on the offensive end that we were able to kind of hold our own.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Shan and A.J.?
Q. Shan, you always seem ready to shoot the ball when you get it, but when you were getting ready to shoot you were just open more than somebody would have expected in a game like this. You had some pretty good looks there. Were you surprised by that?
SHAN FOSTER: Definitely. I haven't gotten many open shots this year, but we knew that they were going to come out and play a lot of different zones, so if we got the ball moving and moved ourselves a little bit, then we would get open shots as a team. My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and I was able to knock down a few shots.
Q. Talk about the rematch with Arkansas. Obviously a real tight game in Fayetteville. Talk about losing to Arkansas four in a row. I know you guys have won a lot of games the past couple years, and I would think you would want to make up for that?
SHAN FOSTER: Well, they're a great team and they're definitely well-coached. I think they have one of the biggest big men in this league, and they do a good job of pressuring and doing a lot of different things. Unfortunately we haven't had great success against them, but we look forward to a great game tomorrow. We know they're going to be amped up and ready to play, and we will, too.
A.J. OGILVY: Really looking forward to coming out and having a good game tomorrow. Obviously the game didn't end the way we wanted it to in Fayetteville, but they're a good team and it'll be a great contest.
Q. How much of an advantage did you sense you had today inside against a team that's probably the smallest in the league? Did you sense you were going to be able to have your way in there today?
A.J. OGILVY: I don't know if I had my way. As soon as we came out I had a couple good looks and I was in pretty good position. Prowell got into foul trouble, they had some issues trying to get good players in there, and my teammates did a good job of getting the ball to me in easy scoring position, so that was the biggest asset.
Q. What part of your game has improved the most this year? What was the most difficult transition you had to make to American College basketball?
A.J. OGILVY: I think definitely my defense I think has improved the most. Obviously coming over here and playing against more agile and more athletic players, I had to learn to move my feet better and to play in the college system I obviously have to be a pretty good defender, so I obviously had to improve that a lot.
Q. For both of you guys, did you feel like Auburn would wear down or that they did wear down? Obviously you knew their numbers situation. It looked like you guys went on like a 10-0 run there midway through the second half. Did you kind of feel like maybe fatigue started to set in for them right then?
A.J. OGILVY: Down the stretch they were still making a lot of plays, and it was a game that came down to the last few minutes. We knew if we were able to get them into a close game, we're pretty good at finishing out games, that hopefully we would come out so tried to wear them down, and I don't know if they got fatigued or not but, went on a couple of good runs and we were able to come away with a win.
SHAN FOSTER: Just to piggy back on what A.J. said, I'm not sure if they wore down. They came out the second half, especially late, and made a lot of shots, made a lot of contested shots, made big plays. Just felt like we had a few advantages and we were able to execute.
Q. This question is for A.J. I think Jeff Lebo compared -- he said watching them go against you reminded him of watching him take his six-year-old kid to the hole. Liken or compare that to what you'll be seeing, Arkansas has got five guys 6'8" or taller?
A.J. OGILVY: It's obviously a very different game playing against guys a little bit shorter, but they were obviously really athletic and able to get around the post really well. There was a lot more swiveling and stuff like that involved. Obviously Arkansas is going to be a bit of a different game, a lot more physical, and hopefully we just come out and play well against them.
Q. You've talked all season about how tough you feel like you guys are to beat when both you guys have kind of got it going from the inside and outside. How encouraging was it for you today to come out and do that and just kind of have that inside-outside combination? You've got to feel pretty encouraged about getting the postseason started that way?
SHAN FOSTER: Definitely. Definitely feel like we have an advantage inside with A.J. and the things that he's able to do and bring to our team. Whenever he's playing the way he did today the way he's capable of playing, then it makes it easy for a lot of other guys on this team to jump up and make shots. That was just a case of what happened today, and hopefully it'll be the case every time we play.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse you. You can return to the locker room. Thank you very much. We will continue on with Coach Stallings.
Q. How much grief do you anticipate giving A.J. for missing -- getting his only shot that he missed today blocked on a dunk?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, there's no anticipation necessary. I already jumped him in the locker room and said I can't believe that you couldn't make all your shots. All you had to do was make one more dunk and you would have been 13 for 13 (laughter). He got a good laugh out of it, actually. It was kind of nice, nice to see him laugh.
Q. Someone mentioned already, seemed like they were making shots, you were making shots until a point with about maybe ten minutes to go in the second half. You maybe turned up the defensive pressure a little bit and forced them into some sloppy play. What do you remember about that stretch?
COACH STALLINGS: I think that we were able to get some stops and some rebounds, and our offense flowed pretty much the whole game. So when we were able to get stops, we were able to extend our lead, and then -- so we'd get them for a them and then they'd make shots for a them and we'd get them for a while and they'd make shots for a while.
I thought offensively except for right at the start of the second half, I thought we had a pretty good flow the entire game. We're capable of being a good offensive team, and when our defense and our rebounding is good enough, then we usually have a chance to win.
Q. What has A.J. improved the most?
COACH STALLINGS: Actually when I leaned over to him, I think the question was what was the biggest transition. When we were walking from the locker room here, he said I can't believe how much media coverage there is for this. So I leaned over to him, and I said, don't say media," because he was talking as we were walking from the locker room to here about how this was really like the biggest difference to him he thought was just how much media exposure and things that there were.
But anyway, what has he improved the most on? I think he's improved -- I was really surprised to hear him say defensively (laughter). I hope it's defense. I hope that's it. That's all I'll say.
Q. Just wondering if you could talk about the rematch with Arkansas, getting them here on neutral floor as opposed to Fayetteville.
COACH STALLINGS: The venue hasn't made that much difference. They've pretty much had their way with us. It doesn't matter, neutral floor or -- they beat us on our court last year, came here and beat us, they beat us on their court this year. They seem to play well against us and we seem to struggled with them. We'll see what happens tomorrow. We had a chance to win the game over in Fayetteville, and they just made a couple more plays at the end than we did. But took a pretty good shot from them over there because they shot the ball extremely well, so maybe we can induce them to miss a few shots tomorrow and give us a little better chance. But they were awfully good that day at their place.
Q. When you say they've had their way with you, is there any particular reason that you would care to share in a public forum?
COACH STALLINGS: They have good players. They have long, athletic, good players, and -- last year they were really a horrible match-up for us, and this year I don't feel like that the match-up is as bad. Last year I thought it was. They were one of the most difficult teams in the league for us to match up with last year.
Anyway, we'll see what happens tomorrow. I wasn't -- we had a chance to win over there, and we know that. Knew that -- know we had a chance to win. We were in that game -- it was a one-point game with ten seconds to play or something, and we were there the whole day. We'll just see how it goes tomorrow.
Q. When you get 27 out of A.J. and 26 out of Shan and just look at the way the offense operated today, is that as close to what you would have envisioned with the inside-outside tandem?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, I thought that certainly when you look and A.J. is 12 for 13 and Shan is 9 for 14, the proficiency is awfully good. But I thought the key to that today was we really made an emphasis with our team not to take quick threes and make a few extra passes and see if could put the ball in A.J.'s hands. And I think as a result not only did A.J. touch it more but Shan touched it more. Our team bought into that, they did it, they executed it, and the best news was they did it with a smile on their face. I don't think we had guys out there resisting and thinking things that selfish players thing. I think that they embraced it and they got the ball where it needed to be, and as a result we had a very good offensive performance.
Q. Just following up on that, has that been a problem here of late?
COACH STALLINGS: Not a problem with the players, it's been a problem with the coaching. I have tolerated too many quick bad threes early in the clock from guys that don't make a high enough percentage to warrant that. You know, it will probably come as a great shock, I didn't put any restrictions on Shan (laughter). I told Shan if it feels round, you can shoot it (laughter).
But other guys, need to make a couple extra passes. Now, did that, and we still had some guys step up and make shots later in the clock, which is exactly what I want. But as a result, A.J. gets a bunch of touches. And those touches are good for our team. The more touches he gets, the better off we play usually, or the better we play.
Q. I've heard some coaches say in the quarterfinal game the team that won the day before and kind of got used to playing here has an advantage. Other coaches say, well, the team didn't have to play and is well-rested or better-rested has an advantage. Do you have any thoughts on that?
COACH STALLINGS: Not particularly. I generally think that the team that plays the best has the advantage. That's kind of the way I look at it. That's -- I'm not trying to be evasive on the question, but I have no opinion on whether it's an advantage to play the day before or have the rest or whatever because you can go back through the history of the tournament and figure out the percentages, and probably the team that didn't play has won more games because they were the better seed and the better team, probably. Now, I don't have any statistical data to back that up, but I think what will happen tomorrow is if Arkansas plays better they'll win and if we play better we'll win. I think that's what will happen.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Auburn Postgame Quotes:
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin and ask Coach for some overall thoughts on the game and then we'll take your questions just for the three student athletes and then we'll excuse them back to the locker room.
COACH LEBO: Well, I thought Vanderbilt's game plan was fairly simple and something we struggled with because of our size. They went inside on us pretty consistently, and Ogilvy scored a ton in there, and Quan Prowell got in foul trouble and really had to play the majority of the game with a 6'6", 190 guy at the center position. The kids battled hard. They shot the ball extremely well. Offensively it wasn't an issue for us, it was just having a hard time stopping them on the other end. Their two big guns really hurt us in this game.
Q. Talk about battling Ogilvy inside.
FRANK TOLBERT: I mean, it's tough. He's, what, 6'11", 260, 280, and it was just tough because I'm just so small, and it's just as much as I can do to keep him from getting the ball. It's just a tough job down there.
QUAN PROWELL: It was a tough match-up being the way that Vanderbilt moves the ball. The position we needed it to be in by the time we got the ball, it was already rotated to a different spot. So he got his angles on us, and he's a big body so he's tough to get around.
Q. Quan, could you just kind of talk about your foul trouble and also that last foul where I know you were coming into the game with four fouls and probably trying to stay in a little bit longer than you ended up staying in?
QUAN PROWELL: Yeah, that's been something that I tried to stay away from all season is foul trouble. I just got a few calls that changed the game a little bit, and on the last foul I came in -- I don't know what I was thinking, I should have just let him go. But just got caught up in the game and forgot about the fouls I had.
Q. The first half you all shot the ball well. They could not hit their first ten shots. Were you kind of thinking, are they ever going to miss because we're shooting the ball pretty well?
FRANK TOLBERT: I mean, Vanderbilt, that's one of their strengths. They're a very good shooting team. We were making shots, they were making shots, it was just a matter of continuing to play. We felt that they wasn't going to be hitting them like that the whole game, but it seems like they were. But you've just got to keep faith and continue to play the game, and hopefully the ball will bounce your way.
Q. Rasheem, it looked like you played one of your better games today, I guess coming back to your hometown. Is there any satisfaction in that?
RASHEEM BARRETT: There's never satisfaction in losing. There's always something you can do better. I mean, I played pretty way around the game, but obviously I didn't do good enough. We didn't do good enough as a team.
Q. Can you talk about your two seniors? You've had some snake bit-teams over the past couple of years, but can you talk about your two seniors and what they've been able to provide?
THE MODERATOR: This is the time period just for the players right now.
Q. Then this is for the seniors, too, and just their time at Auburn.
FRANK TOLBERT: My time here was great. Even though it didn't end like I wanted it to, I mean, I enjoyed the times I had here. The coaching staff was great, I made a lot of great guys in my teammates, from past to present. So I mean, my time here was great.
QUAN PROWELL: I enjoyed my time here, too. Just being around the fellows and coaches, you know, I love them like they were my true family, and I hope we continue to have this tie that we have these couple years I've been here. I loved it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the players. You can return to the locker room. Thank you for coming. We will continue on with Coach.
Q. Talk about your two seniors, Coach.
COACH LEBO: They meant a lot. It was an emotional locker room after the game. Those two guys I don't think have missed a practice. I think Frank might have missed one and we might have kept Quan out because we made him stay out of a practice, but they set the tone for us. Frank is one that's been here for four years, a guy I didn't recruit. When I took over the job, guys were flying out the door, and he was one that stayed. I've got a lot of respect for frank, I've got a lot of respect for what he's meant to this basketball program, and I just love him as a kid. I mean, he's just a terrific kid.
Those two guys, you go to war with those. Those two guys really have sacrificed probably more than anybody this year with our injuries. They had to play out of position. Frank Tolbert and Quan, I planned on playing Frank at the two and Quan at the three and some even Quan at the two guard, and now all of a sudden they're thrust into a situation where they're playing power forward and center the whole game. I don't know if people quite understand the sacrifice -- when you're a senior, to have to do that. I would think about my own career, if I had to do that, it would be very, very difficult. Very difficult. They never complained, they never wanted it any differently. They said they'd do anything to help this team, and they ran out of gas. The team ran out of gas at the end. Those two gave so much night in and night out, and they battled every single night, never complained, and they never came to see me. I've just got a lot of respect for both those kids.
Q. Right after Quan fouled out, I think you guys hit a three-pointer to cut it to five and then Vanderbilt scored ten straight. Was that a depth fatigue thing right there do you think?
COACH LEBO: Well, everything you see -- we played six guys, of which five of them -- one of them only played 11 minutes and probably our most important. When Quan goes out our whole front line is gone. We were playing 6-6 and no subs at that point. We were fatigued, and the way we have to play -- we did what we needed to do offensively, but the fatigue and not being able to manufacture anything easy. They can get an easy one and throw inside to Ogilvy and he can throw an easy bucket. We can't manufacture anything easy. We can't get those. Whether it's an offensive stick-back, whether it's a post-up move, we have to rely so much on our spread and being off the bounce. Most of the time we were good enough. We scored a lot of points. They had to go small when we were scoring a lot of points and they would put some of their bigger guys on the bench and we didn't have to worry about them as much. It was hard for our kids against Ogilvy in there. He's got savvy, he's got great hands and his body is so big. It kind of reminds me of playing in my backyard against my six-year-old son. I can score on him whenever I want (laughter).
Q. Having played Arkansas and Vandy back to back, I was wondering how you see that match-up on a neutral floor tomorrow?
COACH LEBO: It should be a good one. The one thing that it will be depending on really how Vanderbilt shoots that ball from their key spots. Gordon I think is one guy that has been -- from the three-point line has struggled a little bit. He's got to shoot the ball well for them. Arkansas's side and strength inside, I think they'll be obviously able to handle Ogilvy much better. With their depth and shot blockers and size inside. So it'll be an interesting game tomorrow.
Q. When do you start thinking about next year and the potential for success that you have with all the guys coming back and only losing two?
COACH LEBO: Well, probably in about two days is when you start thinking about it. But we'll take some time to reflect on the season, a very tough, difficult, trying season with a lot of curve balls in it. We've got to get back healthy, we've got to get our best players back on the floor. We've got some areas where guys coming back have to get better. Our depth has to improve obviously, and that will start here pretty soon.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
Story Courtesy: The SEC