TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Bay’s hospitality, the St. Pete Times Forum, and four days of quality basketball and beautiful weather helped make the 2009 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament a huge success. “This whole week has been terrific,” said Mark Womack, executive associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “This is a wonderful building and I think all the players enjoyed the atmosphere. Hotels are in close proximity, the weather was great…we couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
SEC fans brought their passion for basketball and took the opportuntity to enjoy the Bay area’s hospitality. The downtown area found itself jam-packed with those in town to watch basketball and frequent some of Tampa Bay’s hotspots.
The tournament, held at the St. Pete Times Forum March 12-15 generated more than 13,000 room nights for the Tampa Bay area. Positive feedback and reviews from all those in attendance aid in repeat business and travel returning to the Tampa Bay area in the future.
In game action…
The Mississippi State Bulldogs upended the Tennessee Volunteers to claim the 2009 SEC Tournament crown.
Phil Turner scored seven of his 12 points in the final 1:35 Sunday, and No. 3 West seed Mississippi State knocked off East No. 1 seed Tennessee 64-61 for their first bid since 2005.
Turner, who had 10 rebounds, hit a big 3-pointer to put Mississippi State (23-12) in front for good, then made two free throws with 8 seconds left to help the Bulldogs hold off the Volunteers (21-12) in a wild finish.
Cameron Tatum’s long 3-pointer bounced off the rim and Mississippi State’s Barry Stewart rebounded as time ran out on Tennessee’s hopes of winning the tournament for the first time in 30 years.
Wayne Chism led the Volunteers with 15 points, but he missed seven of nine 3-points attempts a day after going 4-of-6 to key a victory over Auburn in the semifinals. J.P Prince had 14 points and leading scorer Tyler Smith had 12 on 2-of-14 shooting.
Stewart and Ravern Johnson both scored 11 points for Mississippi State, which also got 10 points, seven rebounds and six blocks from tournament MVP Jarvis Varnado. The Bulldogs held Tennessee to 29 percent shooting and forced two of the Volunteers’ 14 turnovers with the game on the line.
“That last 22 seconds, I can promise you we didn’t lose no TV viewers,” Stansbury said. “We made it interesting.”
In other notes…
South Carolina coach Darrin Horn made his first return to Tampa Bay since his previous team’s magical run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, when Western Kentucky University won on a buzzer-beater during one of the most amazing games of last year’s tournament. When asked about the St. Pete Times Forum, Horn had nothing but praise saying, “It’s a beautiful facility and it’s run first class. It’s the kind of place that a league like the SEC should be playing in.”