SEC hoops coaches' call


Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.

Every Monday, all 12 SEC coaches talk to the media. Here are the highlights.

Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt

The Commodores kicked off SEC play on Saturday with a difficult loss. The team gave up a 14-point lead in the second half and fell at South Carolina 83-75 in overtime.

More than the play on the court, coach Kevin Stallings didn't like the way his team looked from an attitude standpoint.

"I didn't like some of our players' demeanors," Stallings said. "I don't know if we were self-absorbed or whatever the situation was, but we weren't doing what we need to do to win. It's very disappointing, because it was a road game that we had a chance to get and we let it get away from us."

Junior forward Andre Walker hasn't practiced this week and is still dealing with the effects of a sprained ankle suffered two weeks ago. Fellow junior forward Steve Tchiengang has what Stallings called an "Achilles Tendon problem," but didn't elaborate further.

Record: 11-3 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at South Carolina, 83-75 (OT), on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday vs. Georgia, 7 p.m. (The SEC Network)

Billy Donovan, Florida

In Saturday's victory over Ole Miss to open the SEC schedule, 5-foot-8 junior guard Erving Walker logged career point No. 1,000. Not bad for a guy who some expected to be a bad fit in Gainesville.

"When (Walker) came in, and we lost Taurean Green early, we were in need of a point guard," coach Billy Donovan said. "We signed Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas that year and most people didn't think it was a good fit for him. But he knew that it took a lot of work and a lot of patience to play and compete at this level.

"For someone that small, he's really had a great career for himself. You don't see a lot of guys his size that can do the things that he does and play at that level in a college basketball game."

Record: 12-3 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. Ole Miss, 77-71, on Saturday.

Next Game: Tuesday at Tennessee at 9 p.m. on ESPN

Darrin Horn, South Carolina

The Gamecocks started their SEC slate in stunning fashion Saturday, cutting away at a 14-point deficit in the second half to defeat Vanderbilt 83-75 on the road. The victory earned senior forward Sam Muldrow SEC player of the week after the school's second ever triple-double that included a program-record 10 blocks.

Coach Darrin Horn is hoping it earned his team a lot more than that award.

"Hopefully, beating a good team like Vanderbilt at home gives us some confidence," Horn said. "But hopefully i hope it re-emphasizes what we've been preaching to our guys from day one. In order for us to win, we have to defend and rebound the basketball. That's what we did to get into that game in Vanderbilt."

Record: 10-4 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: won at Vanderbilt, 83-75 (OT), on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday at Alabama at 9 p.m. on CSS

Mark Fox, Georgia

After a convincing 77-70 victory over Kentucky to open SEC play, the Bulldogs are 12-2 and on the cusp of being nationally ranked. Coach Mark Fox isn't aware of that, though.

"I don't know if we are ranked or going to be ranked," Fox said. "I don't know when that even comes out, to be honest with you. … I don't know if it makes any difference to us right now. We still have games to play."

The first of those games comes Wednesday against a good Vanderbilt team that suffered its own shocking loss Saturday vs. South Carolina.

"Vandy is traditionally a very tough place to play," said Fox, whose team is riding a nine-game winning streak. "They have a very good team, probably better than last year's team. They lost one the other night, but that's not indicative of the type of team they are. …They're probably the most complete team we've seen to date."

Based on current weather conditions, and heavy snow in Georgia, the team's travel plans can change at any moment. It's possible, according to Fox, that the team may have to wait until the day of the game to fly to Vanderbilt. Such a move would drastically deplete the team's preparation time.

Record: 12-2 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. Kentucky, 77-70, on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday at Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network

Trent Johnson, LSU

The Tigers kicked off the SEC schedule with a 62-55 victory at Auburn Saturday. LSU coach Trent Johnson said that the game featured a few surprises, but there were no complaints from his side of the bench.

"I don't think I've ever been involved in a basketball game where a team missed as many shots as Auburn did," said Johnson, whose team held its opponent to six points in the first half. "I think (Auburn coach Tony) Barbee said it best that sometimes guys let the offense dictate the game and when shots don't fall, the team doesn't know how to respond."

Freshman guard Ralston Turner is still in a boot after a stress fracture in his right foot and isn't expected back soon.

"It's not day-to-day, it's week-to-week," Johnson said. "I will not bring him back until he's 100 percent. The only result of coming back early from a stress fracture is another stress fracture. He'll be back, but he won't be practicing this week."

Record: 9-7 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: Won at Auburn, 62-55, on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday vs. Arkansas at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network

John Calipari, Kentucky

The Wildcats kicked off the SEC schedule with a shocking 77-70 loss at Georgia on Saturday. According to coach John Calipari, the loss wasn't that surprising by the looks of his team in the second half.

"Georgia just wanted it more than we did," he said. "I have some guys that need to learn what it means to be committed. I have guys that are getting minutes and they're content, but they're not committed. Late in the second half, we didn't huddle. Guys are 1-of-11 shooting and they can't see straight. It gets in their head and we don't even huddle late.

"(Georgia) played better, they were better coached and they deserved to win the game. In this league, if you play the wrong people on the road, you're going to get beat. Even teams that are playing poorly can still beat you on the road."

The NCAA ruled earlier in the month that freshman center Enes Kanter will not be eligible to play due to benefits he received from a foreign team in recent seasons. While Calipari doesn't agree with the decision, he's doing his best to make some good of the ordeal.

"Kanter is allowed to practice with us, travel with us and be on the court with us," he said. "That's all he can do, but we're going to have him with us as much as we can. … They're forcing him to put his name in the draft, which he did not want to or does not want to do, but if that's the case then we'll do what we can do to get him ready."

Record: 12-3 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at Georgia, 77-70, on Saturday

Next Game:Tuesday vs. Auburn at 7 p.m. on ESPNU

Bruce Pearl, Tennessee

Coach Bruce Pearl will be in his home on Tuesday, watching his team's game against Florida. It'll be the second game that he's missed as part of a punishment for hosting recruits illegally in his home.

But no matter where he watches the game, the punishment has been hard on him.

"It's as hard as you can possibly imagine," said Pearl, who viewed his team's 68-65 loss at Arkansas from the team hotel. "The little time I spent thinking about it was as hard as I thought it would be. When you're preparing for a team, you're preparing for everything that may happen and having your team ready. It's hard to prepare for that and then not be there to help it play out. It's a harsh penalty. … It's tough personally and it's tough for the team."

Record: 10-5 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at Arkansas, 68-65, on Saturday

Next Game: Tuesday vs. Florida at 9 p.m. on ESPN

John Pelphrey, Arkansas

After averaging less than 10 points per contest , senior forward Delvon Young poured in 17 points in the team's SEC-opening win against Tennessee. The output was a pleasant surprise to coach John Pelphrey.

"No one expected that from him, as far as a 17-point game," Pelphrey said. "It helps out everyone on the court a lot. We don't tell our guards, 'Don't worry about your guy getting past you, because we have Delvon in the paint.' But with his speed and athleticism, he takes pressure off of a lot of guys on our team."

Record: 11-3 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. Tennessee, 68-65, on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday at LSU at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network

Anthony Grant, Alabama

Coach Anthony Grant is doing his best to establish the defensive side of the ball as his team's identity. In a 75-57 victory at Mississippi State on Saturday, he started to see his pep talks pay off.

"That's just one of the things that we tried to establish from day one," Grant said. "We have to be a good defensive team to win games and I think our guys are buying into that. … As the season goes on, you understand the things that you need to do to win and defense has been the key to our victories."

Part of the defensive presence relies on freshman guard Trevor Releford, who recorded 17 points, four rebounds and four assists in his first SEC game.

"He's fit in very well," Grant said. "He's done a good job at understanding his role on this team and what we need from him. With his first experience at an SEC road game, I think he controlled himself very well."

Record: 9-6 (1-0 SEC)

Last Game: Won at Mississippi State, 75-57, on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday vs. South Carolina at 9 p.m. on CSS

Tony Barbee, Auburn

Tigers coach Tony Barbee will see a familiar face on the other bench when his team travels to Kentucky Wednesday. Barbee played for now-Kentucky coach John Calipari when he was a student at the University of Massachusetts.

"It's always fun going against my former coach and my mentor, John Calipari," Barbee said. "I know how competitive he is and he knows how competitive I am. It'll be tough taking a young team into Kentucky to take them on, but we're going to play hard, guard our tails off and hope for the best.

"There hasn't been another male figure in my life, outside of my dad, that's had as much of an impact on my life as he has. It'll be fun trying to match up with him. He's always been one of the best coaches in the country."

If Barbee has any shot at beating his former coach, he'll need a better performance from his young team than he got in the SEC opener against LSU. With the team down an astounding 32-6 at the half, Barbee gave a little pep talk to his players in the locker room.

"I don't know if I can say what I said during half time, language wise, but I told them that we needed to just get more aggressive," he said. "I think we used up all of our energy trying to come back from 26 down and couldn't get over that hump."

Record: 7-8 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost vs. Auburn, 62-55, on Saturday

Next Game: Wednesday at Kentucky at 7 p.m. on ESPNU

Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss

The Rebels held a brief second-half lead in their SEC opener at Florida on Saturday, but the team wasn't able to seal the deal and log the upset.

Coach Andy Kennedy thinks that the problems are fixable, though.

"I thought we started the game well and had a spot there late in the first half where we got into foul trouble and had to play some guys that had never been in a situation like that before," Kennedy said. "I was proud of our guys in the second half, we kept battling and refused to give up.

"This may sound strange, but I believe that there are games that you lose and games that your opponents win. I really think that Florida won that game because they came up with big plays when they needed them."

The team is being affected by bad weather at home that may alter it's practice schedule, but Kennedy expects his team to be prepared for Thursday's home game against Mississippi State on ESPN2

"We got 8-to-10 inches here," he said. "Us not being in school certainly changes things a bit. Hopefully everyone gets here safe, because we're planning to practice as usual."

Record: 12-4 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at Florida, 77-71, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Mississippi State at 9 p.m. on ESPN2

Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs were happy to get back floor general Dee Bost, who has missed all of the season to date due to an NCAA suspension. Coach Rick Stansbury said that the junior guard's debut was "the type of game that I hoped he wouldn't have."

Bost led the team with 14 points in the 75-57 loss to Auburn, but struggled from the floor on 5-of-16 shooting.

"We didn't have Dee in practice for a while and when he came back in showed," Stansbury said. "He had no lift on his jump shot. You can't just go a long stretch without a key player and come back without missing a beat. It is what it is. We won't make excuses for it, but we'll keep going forward from where we're at and try to improve."

With Bost back in the fold, Stansbury is trying his best to look past a recent five-game road swing that saw his team go 1-4.

"I don't want to look back at that road trip," he said. "There was nothing positive that came from that road trip and I'm just trying to move forward."

Record:8-7 (0-1 SEC)

Last Game: Lost vs. Alabama 75-57, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday at Ole' Miss at 9 p.m. on ESPN2

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