SEC basketball report: Vols, Aggies worked overtime

Texas A&M's Elston Turner (31) moves the ball up the court against Tennessee's Skylar McBee during the first half in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)
Texas A&M's Elston Turner (31) moves the ball up the court against Tennessee's Skylar McBee during the first half in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy doesn’t carry a reputation for rambling.

So, shock was minimal when he offered a brief answer for the lingering feeling after his team’s 93-85 loss in four overtimes to Tennessee on Saturday.

“Draining,” he said Monday.

Exhaustion could set in while perusing the box score, too.

Tennessee guards Jordan McCrae and Trae Golden logged 56 minutes apiece, and sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes slogged through 53 of his own.

Texas A&M’s roster features just eight scholarship players, so guard Elston Turner played 58 minutes, and Fabyon Harris endured 51 off the bench.

“To come out here and play something like that is crazy,” Golden said Saturday. “It got to a point in the second or third overtime where I was asking guys, ‘What number of overtime is this?’ It was crazy but just something we had to push through.”

On Monday, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin couldn’t say for certain what the practical impact will be when the Vols (16-10, 8-6 Southeastern) trek to Florida (22-4, 12-2) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in search of a sixth consecutive victory.

“We’ll see what type of effect it has,” Martin said.

A day earlier, though, Martin adjusted UT’s practice outline to build in a recuperation period for players who saw a heavy volume of action.

For example, Golden, who was the SEC’s Player of the Week after scoring 32 points in the win, would have done a hot bath and sat through a 40-minute film session.

“For the guys who played a lot, there was no practice at all,” Martin said.

The rest of the roster took part in 40 minutes of individual skill work.

“We don’t usually practice on Sundays,” Martin said. “This time of year, when you’re out on the floor, you might have contact for about an hour, but we won’t have any contact today.”

Tweaking his plan, though, is a minor issue, considering Tennessee could be making the quick turn while having to message psyches as much as sapped muscle tissue.

“You’re trying to get out of there alive, and that means with a win,” Martin said. “It takes a toll on you both ways, but if you get a win, you can ride that momentum.”

Kennedy wasn’t spared that plight.

“It hurts a little bit more because you had opportunities to win, and it was right there,” he said. “You hope you can keep your team at an even keel.”

Struggling in Starkville

Shuffling toward the end of a trying debut season, Mississippi coach Rick Ray cautiously appraised a 65-56 loss to Alabama last week as a positive development.

“I was looking for some carry-over,” he said.

Ray’s optimism was stripped away Saturday when State (7-19, 2-12) was shellacked 72-31 by Vanderbilt (11-15, 5-9) for its fourth home loss by 30-plus points.

“Our guys kind of lost their spirit because we weren’t playing well offensively,” Ray said after the Bulldogs’ lowest scoring output during the 27-year era of the shot clock.

State’s plight is well-known: It only has six scholarship players and relies heavily on walk-ons Tyson Cunningham and Baxter Price.

Ray said it’s unprecedented in program history and jumped on a question about whether the Bulldogs, who face Kentucky (19-8, 10-4) on Wednesday, are engaged in a fair fight.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “The thing we have to realize, and our team knows, is there’s nobody in the country that’s went through what we went through. I don’t care what level.”

Peers and fans have expressed empathy, but Ray doesn’t know whether anyone outside the players and coaching staff has a full appreciation of the difficulty.

“It’s been a trying season, and to our guys’ credit, they’ve hung in there,” he said. “When someone says, ‘I understand what you’re going through’ — no, you don’t.”

Road rash for Mizzou

At halftime Saturday, Missouri led Kentucky by four points in hostile Rupp Arena.

Twenty minutes and an overtime later, the Tigers (19-8, 8-6) were saddled with a 90-83 defeat and their sixth SEC road loss.

The root cause isn’t tough to discern: The Wildcats shot 65.4 percent in the second half, including 5 of 7 from behind the 3-point arc.

So it mattered little that MU hit at a 57.7 percent clip. At least that was the take offered up to the alter of public opinion by Tigers coach Frank Haith.

“I was disappointed with our defensive intensity,” he said. “We’ve got to get our minds set to be more consistent on the road defensively. We played so well against Florida (at home a week ago) and didn’t against Kentucky.”

Haith has little doubt about what’s distracting the Tigers, whose lineup is filled with five players averaging more than 10 points.

“Our guys are putting too much of a premium seeing the ball go in the basket for them and letting them affect them on the other end of the floor,” Haith said.

’Cats on the cutting edge

The Kentucky basketball program wants for little in the way of resources. That’s what a reported $18.7 million, the amount spent last season, will pay for.

For example, the Wildcats’ players and coaches each receive an iPad, valued at $329, for academic and scouting work. The practical impact is that formerly laborious efforts to cut up film and present it to busy players have been largely streamlined.

“These iPads are ridiculous,” coach John Calipari said. “It’s much easier. I can really blow through tape in 30 minutes and get a good feel for it.”

And it’s left little room in the way of excuses for a player not knowing what he’ll face.

“There’s no reason for a player not to know tendencies of a player he’s playing,” Calipari said.

Scheduling matters

At the start of the SEC slate, questions abounded about the practical impact of moving to an 18-game schedule. So far, the biggest impact has been losing an off week, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.

“It extends your league play by a week,” he said. “For us, not having the off week, I never really thought about it until you don’t have it. The games just come very quickly. We’re just trying to stay locked in.”