Razorbacks Clinch SEC Tournament Title and Ear
BY ANDRES FOCIL
ATLANTA, Ga. – Sophomore Brandon Dean scored a career high 21 points and senior Chris Walker pitched in 13 points as the Arkansas Razorbacks downed the No. 23 Auburn Tigers 75-67 to win the 2000 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon. With the win Arkansas earned an automatic berth in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
The Razorbacks (19-14) became only the sixth team in NCAA history to win four games in four days to capture a conference tournament title. Arkansas won its first SEC Tournament and its first conference title since earning the 1991 Southwest Conference Tournament crown.
Auburn (23-9) fell short in its first tournament final since 1985. Ironically it was the Tigers who were the last SEC squad to pull off the four games in four days feat. Mack McGadney, Doc Robinson and Jay Heard all earned 15 points for Auburn in the losing cause.
“It’s the only thing I haven’t won,” Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson said. “I’ve won everything else. The best part is that I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy on the inside for a group of guys that are so young and have been through the trials and tribulations and all the talk they have had to deal with. They put it behind them and won their way into the NCAA Tournament. That is amazing. Everyone one kept trying to bury us, but we are alive now.”
Arkansas downed its third ranked opponent in as many days after topping No. 13 Kentucky in the quarterfinals and No. 16 LSU in the semifinals. The Razorbacks also defeated unranked Georgia in the first round of the conference draw.
The Hogs forced 17 turnovers and outscored the Tigers 26-4 in points off turnovers. Auburn dominated the rebounding by a margin of 41-20, but the turnovers and eight steals lifted Arkansas to the win.
“It’s been a great week,” Richardson said. “Basketball fans saw two great teams duke it out to the end today. It was probably one of the best college ball games that could have been played, especially in the finals. I’m impressed with our kids playing five games in eight days, including Auburn last Sunday. It was great game on a great day.”
Dean was named the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player while Johnson was also named to the All-SEC Tournament team.
Arkansas will now travel to Nashville, Tenn. for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The 11th seeded Hogs will play sixth seeded Miami, Fla. on Friday. The Razorbacks will be making their 14th straight postseason appearance under Richardson including 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament.
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