College Sports

Vandy's Foster has scoring title in sight

It seems as if Vanderbilt's Shan Foster really wants the SEC scoring title.

Foster pumped in a career-high 42 points and swished the game-winner with 2.7 seconds left in overtime as the No. 16 Commodores beat Mississippi State 86-85 on Wednesday. Foster hit his last nine 3-pointers, padded his stats as the school's all-time leading scorer and leaped ahead on the individual conference scoring chart.

With one regular-season game left, Foster is averaging 20.6 points per game. The former second-placer, South Carolina's Devan Downey, has slipped to third after scoring 15 points in his past two games and LSU's Marcus Thornton (19.1) has risen to second.

Foster and the 'Dores (25-5, 10-5 SEC) finished up a perfect home season and should get a high seed in the NCAA tournament, no matter what happens in next week's SEC tournament. Vanderbilt can finish tied for second in the SEC East if Kentucky (17-11, 11-4) loses to Florida on Sunday and the Commodores beat Alabama (15-15, 4-11).

• TOURNAMENT TIME: Most of the top seeds for the SEC tournament have been claimed, but the rest of the field is a jumble.

SEC champion Tennessee claimed the No. 1 East spot and gets an automatic bye, along with SEC West champ Mississippi State and second-place Arkansas. The final bye will be awarded to either Kentucky or Vanderbilt -- if the two end up tied for second, a coin flip decides the seed.

In the East, Florida has claimed the fourth seed while USC and Georgia are fighting for the fifth seed. USC (13-16, 5-10) is a game up on the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-11) and can get the No. 5 spot by beating the No. 4 Volunteers on Sunday. But if the Gamecocks lose and Georgia beats Ole Miss, the teams will tie for fifth and a coin flip decides the seeding.

Ole Miss and LSU are battling for the third seed in the West, each sporting 6-9 league records with one game to play. The Rebels travel to Georgia and the Tigers, winners of four straight, travel to Mississippi State.

The bottom two West seeds also have to be determined. Auburn and Alabama each have 4-11 records. The Tigers travel to Arkansas on Saturday while Alabama hosts Vanderbilt.

• MIXUP: The SEC is investigating the crazy ending of last week's Alabama-Ole Miss game, won 91-88 by the Rebels. Officials Doug Shows, Antinio Petty and Mike Nance are being criticized for the controversial final seconds.

With the Rebels up three points, Ole Miss' Dwayne Curtis rebounded a missed 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds to play. Following conventional strategy, Alabama's Alonzo Gee wrapped his arms around Curtis and waited for the foul.

The logic was Curtis would go the line and if he made one or both shots, Ole Miss would ice the game. But if he missed both, the Tide would still have a chance to get off a tying 3-pointer.

The only problem was, no foul was called. Gee had his arms around Curtis while staring at the officials and then began hitting Curtis' arm. Brandon Hollinger ran over to help out and the foul still wasn't called.

The clock stopped at 2.5 seconds and the referees convened. Deciding the clock had stopped due to a technical malfunction, the trio declared the game was over because time should have run out. The foul remained uncalled.

SEC Director of Officials Gerald Boudreaux said the clock stopping was an electronic glitch but would not speak to The Birmingham News about any disciplinary action.

• FLYING AND FALLING: Tennessee's 89-86 win over Florida on Wednesday set a school record for single-season wins and also soothed its pride after being knocked out of the national No. 1 spot last week. The Volunteers had to come back from 16 points down.

As for Florida, the loss might have been the knockout blow to its NCAA tournament hopes.

Although the two-time defending national champions are 21-9, they're only 8-7 in a weakened SEC and have dropped six of 10. Their February swoon continued into March, and when two cracks at the tying 3-pointer missed on Wednesday, the Gators remained in free-fall.

Florida can obviously remove all doubt of making the NCAAs by winning the SEC tournament, which at least gives the Gators a historical edge. Florida has played in the past four tournament finals, winning the past three.

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