SEC Stars of the Week

Remember, the highest scorer on a team in a given game doesn't automatically receive star treatment or recognition. Leading scorers still populate this list, but in some instances, a team unit or facet of play merits greater consideration. Such was the case this past week, beginning with our first example:


The Tigers beat Texas A&M a week ago despite shooting 39 percent from the field, 30 percent from three-point range, and making only 12 foul shots. This is because Cuonzo Martin's team -- which has been locked in on defense (the best feature of any Cuonzo team at any of his coaching stops) -- managed to smother the Aggies. A&M shot just under 39 percent from the field, only 22 percent from three-point range, and made only five foul shots on six attempts. Missouri's ability to defend without fouling yet also take away the perimeter from A&M secured a four-point victory to keep the Tigers in the hunt for the No. 2 seed at the SEC Tournament.


D. Hall? You mean Donta, right? Yes... but there's a point to the use of an initial, which you'll see very shortly. Donta Hall popped in 20 points while providing typically stout interior defense for Alabama in its win over LSU earlier in the week. He also packed home a rack-rocking dunk against Kentucky on Saturday to give highlight shows their nectar of the gods. Alabama is more than Collin Sexton, and Hall might be the second most important player on the team after the difference-making freshman guard.


This is the unheralded and far less known "D. Hall" on the week's SEC stars list. Yes, Darious Hall deserves his spot here. He came out of nowhere to post a line of 14 points, 11 boards, and 3 assists at Ole Miss last week, powering the Razorbacks to a season-stabilizing road victory. Hall came into the Ole Miss game averaging fewer than five points per game. The freshman is part of the future for Mike Anderson, and he showed why against the Rebels. Hall hadn't scored more than three points in his three previous appearances, but he supplied the Hogs an extra boost when they needed it most. There was more than one "Hall monitor" on the parade of SEC stars in the middle of February.


A familiar presence on this list had been displaced by Daryl Macon and his streak of 20-point performances, but Barford returned thanks to a 21-point display on Saturday, enabling the Razorbacks' offense to roar past Texas A&M for 94 points. Arkansas will hope that Barford, Daniel Gafford, and Macon can all play well at the same time in March.


He didn't merely lead the Vols in scoring in their win over South Carolina; Williams got the biggest bucket of the game in the final seconds. He is Tennessee's best player and a legitimate SEC Player of the Year candidate. He should certainly be on the first team. Rick Barnes could not have asked for more from this highly productive two-way player.


Auburn's backcourt turned the ball over only three times in AU's win over Kentucky, and the Tigers collected 11 more points at the foul line (24-13) in a game they won by 10 (76-66), but the Tigers would not have gained so many extra possessions if Murray and McLemore had not collected 11 rebounds apiece. McLemore's value to Auburn was apparent against Kentucky, and now his absence looms over the Tigers' season following his gruesome injury on Saturday against South Carolina. McLemore deserved to be a part of the SEC Stars honor roll... and he won't have a chance to be recognized again this season.


With 22 points against Mississippi State and 26 against Florida, Roberson carried the freight for a crew of Commodores which -- after struggling at home in most of January -- has won every home game since the Big 12-SEC Challenge against TCU, in a pattern strikingly similar to last year's progression for VU. Roberson must now try to carry his Memorial Gym scoring prowess on the road if Vanderbilt is to make a run at a .500 overall record this season.


Once again the team leader in scoring for both games in a week (23 against Florida, 19 against Tennessee), Maten is the main man in Athens. He received help from a bad Florida inbounds pass late in the Dawgs' comeback win last Wednesday, and his defense was able to smother Tennessee on Saturday. Maten has always been there for his team. This week, sports smiled on him. Maten deserved the pleasant plot twist in Georgia's generally difficult season.


Where did those 19 points against Auburn come from? Frank Martin won't care -- and if he can get more of these outings on a regular basis, the Gamecocks (like every SEC team) could make some noise at the conference tournament and possibly steal an automatic bid.


P.J. Washington led UK in scoring in both Big Blue games this week (13 against Auburn, 16 against Alabama), but Vanderbilt represented the evolution in the Wildcats over the past several days. Kentucky has to become a blue-collar team which dominates on defense and the glass. Vanderbilt showed the way for his teammates, snapping down 19 total rebounds in UK's two games. Vanderbilt doesn't finish near the basket, but if he can continue to be a vacuum which sucks up loose balls, the Wildcats can develop their identity as a team which can win a fistfight and make the game ugly for the opposition. Kentucky won't win "pretty." UK has to win street fights if it wants to have a reasonable chance of making a deep run in March. Vanderbilt represents this Big Blue approach more than anyone else, Washington included.


Bad Waters, bad LSU. When Good Waters flow through the Bayou Bengals, Will Wade's group becomes formidable. Waters scored 21 points on Saturday against Missouri, but more importantly, he made the big bucket his team needed in the dying moments of the contest. How can Wade keep this version of Waters? It's the question every basketball fan in Baton Rouge is asking these days.

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