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    SEC Basketball Today: Wednesday, February 19

    Florida 71, Auburn 66
    LSU 92, Mississippi State 81
    Missouri 67, Vanderbilt 64
    Arkansas 71, South Carolina 64


    Auburn Almost Pulls The Upset At No. 2 Florida
    AUBURN, Ala. -- An Auburn basketball team that almost beat Florida earlier this season pushed the No. 2 Gators to the limit again before falling in the closing seconds Wednesday night. 
    Florida, down much of the game, took the lead for good with 20 seconds remaining to beat Auburn 71-66 in the O'Connell Center in Gainesville for its 30th consecutive home win. 
    "I'm proud of the guys, but I'm also disappointed for them in the same breath because I thought our guys deserved to win," said coach Tony Barbee on the Auburn radio network.
    Auburn has come as close as most anyone to beating Florida, now twice. Auburn was within a point of Florida with less than two minutes to play before falling on Jan. 17. The Tigers almost finished  the job Wednesday night thanks to the play of freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who scored a team-high 17. 
    "You've got to give Florida credit. That's what they are," Barbee said. "They're a championship team. They don't beat themselves. We beat ourselves in those waning moments. They didn't beat themselves." 
    Florida improved to 24-2 overall and 13-0 in the SEC and left with its home winning streak intact. Auburn almost ruined it all. The Tigers had won four of their previous six games before Wednesday and fell to 12-12 overall and 4-9 in the SEC. 
    Florida coach Billy Donovan said Auburn played "fearlessly" and "outplayed us." 
    "We did not do a good job defensively," Donovan said. "I give Auburn credit because they really shot the ball well."
    Auburn's last lead came at 65-63 with 2:06 remaining. Florida would take the lead, but the Auburn was always close enough to tie, which it did, until a missed shot, a missed free throw, a foul and then a turnover allowed Florida to take and then build the lead in the final seconds. 
    Barbee said those mistakes didn't decide it. 
    "It was our inability to go get back 12 offensive rebounds that cost us the game," he said. 
    Shamsid-Deen stepped up to lead the Tigers, marking the first time that neither SEC-leader Chris Denson nor KT Harrell led Auburn in scoring this season. 
    "He doesn't care who it is or where it is," Barbee said of Shamsid-Deen's ability to play big in a big-time game. 
    Denson scored 15 and Harrell added 14. 
    "I thought Chris and KT did a really good job because of the attention that they draw, making everybody else better," Barbee said. 
    Now, Auburn heads back to play Vanderbilt at 5 p.m. Saturday in Auburn Arena. Barbee said the Tigers have to bounce back from Wednesday's tough loss. 
    "This game shows you how close we're getting, and to use it to go even further," he said. "Or, we can use it as a crutch and fold a little bit and take a step back." 
    Barbee was quick with an answer when he was posed with the possibility that Auburn can win the rest of its games if it plays like it did against Florida. 
    "There's no question," he said.

    Offense Powers LSU Past Mississippi St.
    BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers used a 14-0 start and then held off every possible rally in recording a 92-81 win over Mississippi State Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
    It was the most points LSU had scored in an SEC win this year, topping the previous high of 88 versus Arkansas.
    The Tigers won for the sixth straight time at home in seven tries in SEC play in running its record to 16-9 and 7-6 in the league going into Saturday’s 3 p.m. CST game at Rupp Arena in Lexington against Kentucky. Mississippi State fell to 13-13 and 3-10 in the SEC.
    LSU had five players in double figures with Jarell Martin scoring 20 on 8-of-11 field goals with two assists. Jordan Mickey had 19 points and two blocks, three assists and three steals with 11-of-12 free throws made while Shavon Coleman had 18 points with four steals. Andre Stringer off the bench hit three treys with 14 points, while Anthony Hickey also had three treys for a 13-point night.
    Mississippi State was led by Craig Sword who had 33 points, 20 in the second half on 11-of-16 shooting including 10-of-14 FT. Trivante Bloodman had 11 points and Gavin Ware had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
    LSU shot 50.8 percent (30-of-59) with nine treys and 23-of-29 at the free throw line. Mississippi State shot 60.7 percent in the second half and 50 percent for the game (26-of-52) and was 26-of-36 at the line.
    The Tigers, off a two-game road week of losses, put the game into overdrive early getting seven scores on its first eight possessions and scoring the first 14 points of the contest on a four-minute run.
    Hickey hit a three-pointer 35-seconds into the game and after two Johnny O’Bryant III free throws, Coleman stole the ball and dunked it on the other end to make it 7-0. Mickey forced another turnover and scored a three-point play to make it 10-0. Martin added two free throws and then JOB III made it 14-0 with a lay in off a Martin pass.
    In the run, LSU posted an 8-0 advantage in the paint and scored nine points off turnovers.
    Mississippi State would finally score on a free throw by Fred Thomas, who made one-of-two tosses at the 16 minute mark, but Mickey came right back and got a layup to make it 16-1 at the first media timeout.
    State’s first basket came at the 14:53 mark and Martin then made two layups to make it 20-3.
    But Mississippi State began to get its act together and LSU began to lose its edge. Up 20 at 24-4 with 11:50 left on a Tim Quarterman bucket, State proceeded to go on a 16-2 run to cut the margin to 26-20 with 7:28 to go in the first half.
    The Tigers finally righted the ship and advanced the lead back to 14, 36-22, on a Coleman layup with 5:21 to go in the opening half. At the half, LSU led, 42-31.
    In the second half, State would close the game back to seven, 47-40, with 17:33 to play, but at the midway point, the Tigers went on a 10-1 run with a series of steals and layups that made the LSU lead again 19, 75-56, with 9:23 to play. With Sword driving to the bucket, State continued to score, but LSU’s offense continued to pile up points and State could get no closer than 10 in the final minutes.

    Tigers Gut Out 67-64 Win Over Vanderbilt
    COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Mizzou men's basketball team used a late second-half surge to grind out a 67-64 win over Vanderbilt in a tale of two halves at Mizzou Arena. Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross combined for all of Mizzou's points in a convincing 11-2 run that helped the Tigers pull ahead for good in the final minutes.
    Clarkson led all scorers with 21 points behind a perfect 11-for-11 output from the free throw line and senior Earnest Ross hit four 3-pointers en route to 16 points. The win is the third straight victory for Missouri (19-7 overall, 7-6 SEC).
    Both teams experienced shooting woes in the first half, combining for only 41 total points. While the Tigers struggled from the field offensively, they made up for it on the defensive end. Missouri held the Commodores (14-11, 6-7) to just 40-percent shooting from the floor, including 31 percent from long range. Vanderbilt clung to a 19-15 lead with 4:50 remaining in the initial frame.
    Reserve forward Torren Jones ended a three-minute Tiger scoring drought with a transition layup and Ross banged in a corner three to pull the Tigers ahead by one. For the second straight game, Jones' hustle provided a lift off the bench for head coach Frank Haith. The 6-foot-8 freshman posted four points, four rebounds and three steals in 18 efficient minutes of the bench. A buzzer-beater by the Commodores off a baseline inbounds play gave them a 21-20 lead at the half.
    The game stayed close throughout the second half, though both offenses quickly found their shooting touch. Mizzou grabbed momentum when freshman Jonathan Williams III beat the shot clock with his second 3-pointer of the season, but Vanderbilt answered swiftly and clawed back to regain a 46-44 lead at the 9:00 mark.
    Mizzou's game-winning run came with just under six minutes left. With the Commodores holding onto a 51-48 lead, Clarkson weaved through the lane and converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to knot things up. On the ensuing Vanderbilt possession, Tiger center Ryan Rosburg drew a charge and Ross followed with a deep 3-pointer to give Mizzou a lead it would never surrender.
    After a Commodore dunk, Clarkson slashed to the basket again for an easy layup and Ross tossed in another 3-pointer to extend the Tigers' advantage to 61-53. Missed free throws down the stretch allowed Vanderbilt to climb back in the closing moments of the game, but Missouri held on for its third straight victory by five points or less.
    After a spotless home stand, the Tigers will hit the road for back-to-back games, with a trip to Alabama up next on Saturday. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT.

    Razorbacks Hold On To Defeat South Carolina
    FAYETTEVILLE - The Razorbacks grabbed hold of the lead for good with 4:40 left in the second half and held on until the clock hit 00.0, outlasting South Carolina 71-64 Wednesday night.
    Senior Coty Clarke brought home his second double-double of his career of the point/rebound variety with 12 in each category. Clarke added four assists and a team-high four steals, bringing his total to 39 on the season. Sophomore Michael Qualls fell one point shy of his career high and two rebounds short of his first Razorback double-double, ending the night with 20 points on 7-of-14 and eight boards.
    Freshman Bobby Portis and senior Mardracus Wade finished next, dropping nine and eight points respectively.
    The Razorbacks made their presence under the boards known during the last twenty minutes, grabbing a 26-18 edge off the glass including 15 on the offensive end.
    South Carolina's Brenton Williams carried the Gamecocks with 29 points in 37 minutes on the floor.
    Arkansas's bench continued their dominant streak, outperforming the Gamecocks 21 to 7 down the stretch.