While the SEC is known first and foremost as a football conference, many people in the college basketball world predicted that this would be the year that the SEC re-established itself as a basketball beast. With teams such as Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State, the SEC was bound to have a breakout year.
However, during the Big East-SEC Challenge, Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, and company had something to say about that. The Big East won eight out of the 12 matchups, some in decisive fashion, and some that came down to the waning seconds.
In a highly anticipated matchup, Syracuse beat Florida 72-68, behind 20 points from Brandon Triche and 16 points and seven assists from Scoop Jardine. The raucous crowd contributed to the statement win for the Orange. Despite hot shooting from the Gators’ Kenny Boynton, ‘Cuse was able to hang on and remain undefeated.
UConn missed freshman sensation Ryan Boatright for its first six games. In his second game, and first at home, the co-player of the year in the state of Illinois showed why he earned the honor, dropping 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Once Boatright entered the game, he righted the ship, so to speak, and the Huskies busted the game open on a 14-2 run. From there, guards Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb paced the Huskies to a 75-62 triumph. UConn’s fast break was too much for Arkansas to handle.
A defensive-minded battle between Louisville and Vanderbilt came down to the wire in both regulation and overtime. Despite 27 points from Vandy guard John Jenkins, the Cardinals were able to escape with a 62-60 win, behind a very balanced offensive attack and stellar defense. Guard Peyton Siva slashed to the basket and made a layup with 1.4 seconds left in overtime, propelling the Cardinals to a win and maintaining their undefeated record.
All in all, the Big East dominated the SEC, with Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh also picking up wins. However, there were some bright spots for Kentucky, Mississippi State, LSU, and Ole Miss, as all four teams were able to beat their opponent. Mississippi State improved to 8-1 with a “state”ment win over West Virginia. Though the Big East exceled over the weekend, the SEC still has the number one team in the country in Kentucky, a team that edged UNC 73-72 thanks in part to a game-saving block from freshman phenom Anthony Davis.