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SEC men's basketball tournament notebook: Key to LSU win is keeping Kentucky's Jodie Meeks in check

TAMPA — The key to LSU's 67-58 quarterfinal win against Kentucky on Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum: Holding the SEC's leading scorer, Wildcats G Jodie Meeks, to a season-low eight points.

Meeks went without a 3-pointer for only the second time this season and was held to a season-low nine shots from the field.

"It was the first time Jodie's been held to single digits, so our team defense was really, really good," LSU coach Trent Johnson said.

G Garrett Temple said the defensive plan was to chase Meeks inside and try to limit his touches outside the 3-point line, which made for a long day for Temple.

"It was a little tiring to chase him around, but I knew I was going to have to do it, so I put my track shoes on," Temple said.

ON THE RISE: The announced attendance rose for the third straight session Friday afternoon; it was 13,306 for the first two quarterfinals, still more than 8,000 short of capacity.

TIGHT QUARTERS: During Tennessee's win against Alabama, coach Bruce Pearl was assessed a warning by officials for stepping on the court. He said the sideline at the Times Forum is "very tight."

"I don't have very good wheels, so I'm not a very good kneeler, so I'm usually up," Pearl said. "Between the bench and the sideline, there's only about a foot and a half of space in there."

BUBBLE OR NOT? How often does a team finish among the top ones in a major conference, yet is on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament?

South Carolina may be in that situation after its quarterfinal exit. Its loss to Mississippi State may eliminate the Gamecocks from the NCAAs, a notion that baffles coach Darrin Horn.

"I've been saying for a long time, I don't see how you don't take one of the top three or four teams from the SEC in the NCAA Tournament when you go back and look at our overall season," Horn said. "Being divisional co-champs in the East, I think that we've proven we're definitely worthy of that. But those decision are beyond our control."

Entering Friday, ESPN's "bracketologist," Joe Lunardi, had the Gamecocks as the No. 11 seed in the East. But if Mississippi State, Auburn or Florida wins the SEC tournament, that might knock South Carolina out because the league is considered down this year and may not get more than three teams in the NCAAs; LSU and Tennessee are considered locks for bids.

BUILDING BLOCKS: Mississippi State junior F Jarvis Varnado has been a presence in the paint all season, leading the nation in blocked shots (average 4.6 per game). He had an impressive six against South Carolina. School officials estimate he has a shot at setting an NCAA record next season if he averages about five blocks.

"If I'm an opposing coach, you have to talk about him," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "He changes the psychology of the game."

Varnado, 6-foot-9, has 171 career blocks.

THIS AND THAT: Kentucky wore black uniforms for the second time in the program's history. … The central scoreboard at the Times Forum stopped working at halftime of the Tennessee-Alabama game. The top video screen showed a familiar Windows error message: "Application has encountered a problem and needs to close. … We are sorry for the inconvenience. … If you were in the middle of something, the information you were working on might be lost." The screen was later turned off. … Some lots near the Times Forum that were charging $20 for parking Thursday afternoon were down to $15 Friday.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

SEC men's basketball tournament notebook: Key to LSU win is keeping Kentucky's Jodie Meeks in check 03/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 11:44pm]
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