By R.L. Bynum
While conference tournament play starts this week for many, it has already ended in frustration for Brandon Huffman’s Jacksonville State team. But Garrison Brooks hit a big career milestone and Walker Kessler was named Saturday as a Wooden Award finalist.
The Gamecocks, the tournament’s top seed, lost Saturday at home 54–51 in the ASUN Tournament semifinals to Jacksonville, with Huffman scoreless for the third game this season but for the first time since Jan. 8. He contributed four rebounds, one block and one steal.
Jacksonville State (21–10) won its quarterfinal game at home Thursday 78–67 against Kennesaw State. Huffman collected 14 points, seven rebounds and a block in that game.
The Gamecocks will go to the NCAA tournament with the league’s automatic bid because Bellarmine beat Jacksonville in the league tournament final Tuesday. Bellarmine is ineligible for the NCAA tournament, so Jacksonville State gets the bid because it won the conference’s regular-season title.
The first former UNC player with a league tournament game this week will be Jeremiah Francis. His New Mexico team (13–18) is the No. 9-seed in the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas and faces No. 8 Nevada in the first round at 3 p.m. Wednesday (Mountain West Network).
Francis didn’t play in either of the Lobos’ games last week, a 71–68 Monday loss at Fresno State Monday and a 76–67 Saturday home victory over UNLV, and hasn’t gotten into their last three games.
After Coach King Rice’s Monmouth team (19–12) lost three of its last four regular-season games, the Hawks are the No. 4 seed in the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. Monmouth faces No. 5 Niagara at 9:30 Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Walker Miller collected 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in Monmouth’s 75–72 home victory Thursday against Quinnipiac. He had 11 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s 74–65 loss at Rider.
Roy Williams, who coached Miller at UNC, attended the senior night game Thursday.
Seventh Woods’ Morgan State team finished the regular season with a season-high four-game win streak to earn the No. 4 seed at the MEAC Tournament in Norfolk, Va.
The Bears (12–13) face No. 5-seed South Carolina State in a quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Thursday. With a win, Morgan State would advance to a 6 p.m. Friday semifinal game against either No. 1-seed Norfolk State or No. 8-seed Delaware State.
Woods had four points and two assists in Monday’s 82–48 home win over Maryland-Eastern Shore and two points and one assist in Thursday’s 63–59 road win over crosstown rival Coppin State.
Garrison Brooks’ Mississippi State team opens play at the SEC Tournament in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday. The No. 10-seed Bulldogs (17–14) meet No. 7-seed South Carolina at 6 p.m. With a win, they would face No. 2-seed Tennessee at 6 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.
Brooks became the only active college player with at least 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds for his career. In his fifth college season, Brooks has 1,599 points and 1,005 rebounds.
Mississippi State gave Walker Kessler’s No. 5-ranked Auburn team quite a game Wednesday night before losing 81–68 in overtime. Brooks collected 10 points, eight rebounds and a block while Kessler had four points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season Saturday with a 67–64 loss at Texas A&M. Brooks missed all four shots and finished with season-low one point, with four rebounds and a block.
Kessler has been playing through a shoulder injury. He rebounded from back-to-back single-digit scoring games with 11 points, six rebounds, two blocks and three steals in the Tigers’ 82–71 home win Saturday over South Carolina.
Kessler leads the nation with 4.5 blocks per game. He finished the regular season with 140 blocks, more than 317 Division I schools and is one of 15 Wooden Award finalists along with Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
Auburn (27–4) won the SEC regular-season title and was undefeated at home (18–0) for the first time in 23 seasons.
The Tigers are the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament and meet either No. 9-seed Florida or No. 8-seed Texas A&M at noon Friday in the quarterfinals (ESPN).
How the seven former Tar Heels did
Garrison Brooks, Mississippi State center
81–68 OT Wednesday loss vs. Auburn — Started; 36 minutes, 10 points, 3–5 FG, 0–2 3FG, 4–6 FT, 8 rebounds, 3 fouls, 1 turnover, 1 block, 1 steal
67–64 Saturday loss at Texas A&M — Started; 21 minutes, 1 point, 0–4 FG, 1–2 FT, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 block
Season statistics — 31 games, 31 starts, 10.5 points, 46.1 FG%, 32.8% 3FG%, 68.8% FT%, 6.7 rebounds; season totals of 26 assists, 26 blocks, 10 steals
Up next — 6 p.m. Thursday as No. 10-seed vs. No. 7-seed South Carolina at SEC Tournament in Tampa, Fla., SEC Network; with win, would face No. 2-seed Tennessee at 6 p.m. Friday, SEC Network
Jeremiah Francis, New Mexico guard
71–68 Monday loss at Fresno State — Didn’t play
76–67 Saturday win vs. UNLV — Didn’t play
Season statistics — 11 games, 1 start, 1.8 points, 36.0% FG, 2–10 3FG; season totals of 10 rebounds, 16 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Up next — 3 p.m. Wednesday as No. 9-seed vs. No. 8 Nevada in first round of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, Mountain West Network; with win, would face No. 1-seed Boise State in a quarterfinal Thursday
Brandon Huffman, Jacksonville State forward/center
78–67 Thursday win vs. Kennesaw State in ASUN Tournament quarterfinals — Started; 21 minutes, 14 points, 6–7 FG, 2–4 FT, 7 rebounds, 1 block
54–51 Saturday loss vs. Jacksonville in ASUN Tournament semifinals — Started; 17 minutes, 0 points, 0–2 FG, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal
Season statistics — 30 games, 30 starts, 9.2 points, 65.5 FG%, 0–1 3FG, 55.0 FT%, 5.9 rebounds; season totals of 6 assists, 31 blocks and 11 steals
Up next — NCAA tournament berth
Walker Kessler, Auburn forward/center
81–68 OT Wednesday win at Mississippi State — Started; 29 minutes, 4 points, 2–4 FG, 0–2 FT, 10 rebounds, 2 fouls, 1 assist, 3 blocks
82–71 Saturday win vs. South Carolina — Started; 27 minutes, 11 points, 5–13 FG, 1–4 3FG, 0–1 FT, 6 rebounds, 1 turnover, 2 blocks, 3 steals, +9
Season statistics — 31 games, 31 starts, 11.5 points, 62.1 FG%, 21.3% 3FG, 59.7 FT%, 8.2 rebounds; season totals of 27 assists, 140 blocks, 33 steals
Up next — noon Friday as No. 1 seed vs. either No. 9 Florida or No. 8 Texas A&M in SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
Walker Miller, Monmouth forward
75–72 Thursday win vs. Quinnipiac — Started; 28 minutes, 10 points, 3–9 FG, 2–3 3FG, 2–4 FT, 6 rebounds, 3 fouls, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal
74–65 Saturday loss at Rider — Started; 33 minutes, 11 points, 4–10 FG, 0–1 3FG, 3–5 FT, 9 rebounds, 3 fouls, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 block
Season statistics — 31 games, 31 starts, 14.6 points, 47.2 FG%, 30.2 3FG%, 71.9 FT%, 6.0 rebounds; season totals of 37 assists, 28 blocks, 23 steals
Up next — 9:30 Thursday as No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 Niagara at MAAC Tournament quarterfinals in Atlantic City, N.J., ESPN+; with a win, it would meet No. 1 Iona, No. 8 Manhattan or No. 9 Rider in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday, ESPN+
Andrew Platek, Siena guard
Out for the season after having surgery to repair a full tear in the Achilles tendon in his left leg
Season statistics — 5 games, 3 starts, 9.0 points, 40.9 FG%, 31.3 3FG%, 4–4 FT, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Seventh Woods, Morgan State guard
82–48 Monday win vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore — Started; 19 minutes, 4 points, 2–4 FG, 0–1 3FG, 0–2 FT, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 steals
63–59 Thursday win at Coppin State — Started; 20 minutes, 2 points, 0–3 FG, 2–2 FT, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 block
Season statistics — 19 games, 15 starts, 4.9 points, 42.7 FG%, 20.0 3FG%, 64.5 FT, 2.0 rebounds; season total of 44 assists, 11 steals, 5 blocks
Up next —6 p.m. Thursday as the No. 4 seed vs. No. 5-seed South Carolina State in the quarterfinals of the MEAC Tournament in Norfolk, Va.; with win, it would face either No. 1-seed Norfolk State or No. 8-seed Delaware State in a 6 p.m. semifinal on Friday
Photo via @JSUGamecocksMBB