By: Lauren Rosenberg
The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament kicked off in the first round with the Vanderbilt Commodores squaring off against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game was supposed to be set in stone with a Commodores win, but sports always surprise you at every turn. The Commodores post a worse record than the Crimson Tide, 14-15 and 18-12 respectively, but in the last 5 meetings, Vanderbilt has defeated Alabama. Once the game started rolling, it was a sure thing that the Crimson Tide would win. Heading into the 4th quarter, the Tide were up 20 points with a score of 60-40 and the lead would only extend from there. Despite the Commodores’ Rachel Bell throwing down buckets and recording a career high 31 points, the Commodores were eliminated as the game ended with Tide win and a final score of 77-57 thanks to Jordan Lewis’s 13 points and Freshman Ashley Knight’s 3 blocks that set a school record with 71 total on the season.
The 2nd game of the 1st round of the tournament was more enticing than the first game of this round. This game featured the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Florida Gators in a game that featured close scoring throughout regulation. The Gators would end the game only making 2 3-pointers out of 15 attempts compared to the Razorback’s 7 made 3-pointers out of 16 attempts. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the Gators handed them their 11th straight loss despite Jessica Jackson’s 10 points. Gators Dyandria Anderson led the team with a career high 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists to lead the Gators to victory. The final score was the Gators 71 and the Razorbacks, 61.
The 1st game of the 2nd round was a nonetheless a thriller. This game featured the matchup of two very identical teams, the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs. The game featured the most exciting and heart racing parts of basketball, back-and-forth play. In the first half of the game, it seemed as though Auburn was going to turn out victorious due to Georgia giving them the ball almost every play by recording 16 turnovers but nevertheless, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back and come out ready in the 2nd half. As the Tigers offense began to be hit with fatigue, the Bulldogs jumped right back into attack mode which led to three players to finish in double figures, Panchis Roberts, 15 points, Caliya Robinson, 12, and Mackenzie Engram, 12, and lead the Bulldogs to victory with a final score of 56-52.
The 2nd game of the 2nd round was supposed to be a clear cut win for the Tennessee Volunteers instead, it turned out to be an Alabama Crimson Tide upset. The Tide were able to snap the Vols’ 23 game SEC Tournament opener games winning streak in this game. After the 1:12 left mark in the 4th quarter, the Tide were able to pull away and 10-4, with majority free-throws, to pull the upset. Despite Tennessee’s Russel and Deshields recording 16 and 15 points respectively, it just wasn’t enough for Alabama’s Wade’s 12 points. The final score was 72-64 Tide.
The 3rd game of the 2nd round was one of the slower games with a not so shocking outcome. The matchup was between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Louisiana State University Tigers. The 1st half was very quick and entertaining with Ole Miss leading LSU 30-29 but it would all go down for the Rebels as they only scored 8 in the 3rd quarter to the Tigers 23. Ultimately, the Rebels were defeated by the Tigers, thanks to Jackson’s 22 point and 14 rebound double-double, 65-49 despite Manuel’s 19 point, 6 rebound effort.
The 4th and final game of the 2nd round, that featured the Florida Gators and Texas A&M Aggies, resembled a lot of the 3rd game in this round. Both teams started the game slowly. Both weren’t able to find anything to go down until the 3:07 mark in the 1st quarter when the Gators scored their first basket and the 2:46 mark when the Aggies scored their second basket. In the 3rd quarter, the Aggies went on a 9-0 run and seemed impossible to stop. The Aggies were shown to be too much for the Gators as they defeated Florida 67-48 thanks to Hillsman’s double-double.
The 1st game of the Quarterfinals was a guaranteed win for the South Carolina Gamecocks as they blew the Georgia Bulldogs 72-42. South Carolina had a huge inclination to win as the game was being played on their home court in front of their own fans and a loss in their first game would’ve been a huge let down to not only the team itself but for the Gamecocks’ fan base. Halfway through the 2nd quarter, the Gamecocks had a 20 point lead and it seemed like nothing would stop them and that seemed to be the case. The Bulldogs were plagued with poor shooting throughout the entirety of the game and their leading scorer with 15, Pachis Roberts was 4/17 shooting from the floor. On the other side, South Carolina had tons of energy and were sinking almost everything that came their way with three players score in double figures, Wilson (18), Gray (17) and Cliney (Career high 11), who took control of the game the whole way to best the Bulldogs and move on to the semi-finals.
The 2nd game in the Quarterfinals was the best game in the round as the Kentucky Wildcats bested the Alabama Crimson Tide 65-55. This game featured the smallest final point margin with 10 compared to the other three games. The first half was very close and the winner was not set in stone just yet. The Wildcats game out of half time with a 10-3 run to take control of the game and eventually claim victory. The Tides’ Cook led all scorers in the game with 22 points with 18 of them coming from beyond the arc. The Wildcats had three players in double figures with Epps scoring 12, Rice scoring 11, and Morris scoring 11 which helped the Wildcats secure the victory and move on to face South Carolina in the semi-finals.
The 3rd game of the Quarterfinals was a pretty great 3 quarter game as the LSU Tigers took on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The game was back and forth until the last 3 minutes of the third quarter led to a 21-12 run for the next 8 minutes of the game led by SEC 6th woman of the year McCowan. The Bulldogs were able to pound inside to end the game victorious and smash the Tiger’s turn around season. Moncrief, SEC defensive player of the year, recorded a career high 25 points for the Tigers but that was no matchup for William’s 21 points and Chapel’s 10 in the 2nd half to lift the Bulldogs over the Tigers 78-61.
The 4th and final game of the Quarterfinals was another one of those heart-wrenching 1st halves and disappointing 2nd halves. The Missouri Tigers were proven winners of this matchup against the Texas A&M Aggies after besting the Aggies in overtime at Mizzou Arena in February. The Aggies were able to successfully shut down Tigers’ star Sophie Cunningham to 13 points to easily take the win. The Tigers struggled to get to the basket throughout the whole game and only shot their first free throws in the final minutes of regulation. Tigers Sierra Michalis shows up big for Missouri with 15 points but with no support around her and Sophie Cunningham being immensely slowed down, the Aggies were shown to be too much. Howard led the Aggies with a huge night consisting of 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals as well as Cooper recording 16 points and Knox recording 10 assists. The Aggies ball movement and stellar defense led the Aggies to rout and upset the Tigers 62-48 to continue onto the semi-finals.
The 1st game of the Semi-finals between the Kentucky Wildcats and South Carolina Gamecocks was a known win for the Gamecocks from the start but that mindset of an easy matchup didn’t stop them from rallying all the way through. With Coates returning to the lineup and then having to leave with an ankle injury after just 4 minutes of play, Wilson was forced to step up big again and she far beyond succeeded. Wilson finished the game with 26 points, eight rebounds, and 5 blocks to help spark the win as well as starting a huge run for cut down a 14 lead to just 2. Epps finished with 31 points for the Wildcats but with the SEC finals just one game away and both teams with their eyes on the prize, the Gamecocks were able to pull away from Kentucky with a 14-4 run best the Wildcats 89-77.
After upsetting Mizzou in the quarter finals, the Texas A&M Aggies had high hopes of getting into the SEC Finals as they took on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Aggies quickly had to rely on their backups, which is a concept they haven’t been used to in the tournament, as Williams fouled out with 13 points. With the absence of one of their starters, the Aggies endured some confusion on court which led the Bulldogs to easily best them 66-52 behind Dillingham’s 14 points and William’s 12 points to head into the SEC Finals.
The game that everyone was waiting for, the SEC finals, was played between the #1 and #2 seeds in the conference, the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. This game was bound to be a thriller as both teams held a similar record and only a 1 game differential in the SEC. The Bulldogs were up 45-40 entering the 4th quarter and were looking straight into victory’s face until the rallying Gamecocks were able to pull away to win the tournament. Despite Mississippi State’s McCowan recording a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, the Bulldogs were outmuscled by Wilson’s 15 points 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the game with her recording 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the 4th quarter alone. South Carolina won their third straight SEC Tournament championship in a complete thriller of a game.