Monday, March 17, 2003

SEC Notebook: No upset this time

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Until the final minutes of the game, it looked as if history were repeating itself Sunday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The last time the SEC decided its championship on the Superdome court, it was Mississippi State and Kentucky in the final game in 1996.

Just as this season, the Wildcats were 16-0 in regular-season SEC play.

Kentucky was loaded with future NBA players - Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Mark Pope, and Derek Anderson.

The main difference was that, in 1996, Mississippi State beat the Cats 84-73.

"I remember watching that game," said Mississippi State guard Derrick Zimmerman, who was in eighth grade then. "I remember Dontae Jones. I remember his high socks, the wristbands, him hitting those incredible shots and running down the floor holding up his index finger. He looked like a guy having some fun."

Kentucky and Mississippi State both advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1996, when Kentucky won the national title.

BIG BLUE: The SEC Tournament drew 22,054 to the final session Sunday and a total of 166,410 for all six sessions played. Attendance was down from last year, when 198,929 attended. This year's second session drew only 8,526 because there was only one game after Georgia withdrew from the tournament.

Most of the fans at Sunday's final were decked out in blue and cheering Kentucky. Kentucky's "Blue Nation" filled most of the pavilions behind the baselines. Mississippi State fans were mainly in the corner of one side.

"It's almost like a home game," UK guard Keith Bogans said.

SIGN LANGUAGE: A Kentucky fan held up a sign in the closing seconds of the game that read: "Save our seats 4 April 7," the date of the NCAA championship game in the Superdome.

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