Tide defense shuts down Gamecocks

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NEW ORLEANS — Trevor Lacey scored 15 points, JaMychal Green added 12 and Alabama played lockdown defense in the final six minutes to beat South Carolina 63-57 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday.

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Alabama's Andrew Steele (right) applies pressure to South Carolina's Eric Smith during the second half of the Crimson Tide's six-point tournament victory.  GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Alabama's Andrew Steele (right) applies pressure to South Carolina's Eric Smith during the second half of the Crimson Tide's six-point tournament victory.

The fifth-seeded Crimson Tide led for most of the game, but South Carolina tied it at 51 on the second of back-to-back 3-pointers by Brenton Williams with 6:38 remaining. Alabama (21-10) then held 12th-seeded South Carolina (10-21) scoreless for more than five minutes and did enough on offense to ease past the Gamecocks.

Lacey was efficient for the Crimson Tide and clutch in the final minutes, scoring seven points in the final 3:04 to put the game away. He made 4 of 5 shots from the field – including a 3-pointer – and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.

Green added seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

South Carolina lost 11 of 12 games to end the season. Alabama won for the fifth time in six games and advances to play Florida in today’s quarterfinals. Williams and Damien Leonard led South Carolina with 13 points each.

GEORGIA 71, MISSISSIPPI STATE 61

Gerald Robinson scored 23 points, as Georgia dealt Mississippi State’s tenuous NCAA Tournament hopes a big blow in the opening round.

The victory sends 11th-seed Georgia (15-16) to the quarterfinals at 10 tonight against third-seed Vanderbilt. Mississippi State
(21-11) has lost six of its past eight games.

Georgia led by 11 with 5:32 remaining, but Mississippi State rallied to pull within 60-57 on Jalen Steele’s 3-pointer with 3:50 left. But Georgia held the lead, going ahead 66-59 on Robinson’s jumper with 1:02 remaining.

Robinson finished 10 for 19 from the field, and the senior guard has averaged 17.2 points in his past six games. Nemanja Djurisic added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Steele led Mississippi State with 19 points. Arnett Moultrie, the SEC’s leading rebounder and fourth in the conference in scoring, finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Dee Bost, the fifth-leading scorer in the SEC, had 10 points.

LOUISIANA STATE 70, ARKANSAS 54

Johnny O’Bryant scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and Louisiana State University (18-13) pulled away from Arkansas (18-14).

Storm Warren scored 14 for LSU and Andre Stringer hit three of four 3-pointers and finished with 11 points for the Tigers, who shot 50 percent (25 of 50), tying their second-highest percentage all season.

MISSISSIPPI 68, AUBURN 54

Nick Williams scored a career-high 22 points, and Mississippi defeated Auburn.

Murphy Holloway added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Rebels (19-12), who have won four in a row and might be able to make a case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should they upset Tennessee in their second-round game tonight.

AUBURN GUARD AT CENTER OF POINT SHAVING PROBE

AUBURN, Ala. — Federal authorities are investigating suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward for alleged point shaving involving in at least two games this season, Yahoo Sports reported Thursday.

The report said the FBI began an investigation in late February centering on losses to Alabama on Feb. 7 and Arkansas on Jan. 25.

NCAA officials say they are “very concerned” by the allegations and have been in contact with the school and federal investigators since the issue arose last month.

Ward and guard Chris Denson were both suspended before a Feb. 25 game against Arkansas, but Denson returned for the next game. Denson was questioned and cleared of involvement in point shaving, the report said.

– Associated Press

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