SEC Team-by-Team Updated Basketball Notebooks
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The coaches in tbe Bama/Oregon game share some similarities. Both Tide coach Mark Gottfried and Oregon coach Ernie Kent are not only back coaching at their alma maters (where they played ball), but both coached their teams to league championships in 2002. Tide junior guard Earnest Shelton continues to lead the Tide in scoring with his 17.1 points a game, but his stats impress even more when the breakdown is made of what he's done of late. Shelton has averaged 21.2 points in his last five games. Kennedy Winston scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half including eight of Alabama's final 10 points over the last 4:15 as Alabama was able to hold off a late second half charge from Chattanooga to take a 76-72 victory Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum. The win improves the Crimson Tide to 5-2.
Jonathon Modica led the team in scoring for the seventh time in seven games with a game-high 22 points in Wednesday's 68-56 win over Louisiana Tech. He was six of 14 from the field and nine of nine at the line, improving his free-throw percentage to 81.6 percent. Arkansas is 6-1, its best start since also beginning the 2001 season 6-1. Freshman Olu Famutimi is averaging 10.7 points over the last three games after averaging 7.0 points through the first four. UA plays host to Oklahoma State on Saturday. The game will mark the first time Eddie Sutton has coached a game in Fayetteville since his last home game as UA's head coach in 1985, a 106-71 victory over Baylor on March 2. In last Tuesday's win over Southeast Missouri State, Modica had 20 points and had a season-high eight rebounds. Freshman Ronnie Brewer was 6-of-8 from the field and had 14 points. The Razorbacks have held five of seven opponents to less than 70 points. At this point last year, the Razorbacks were 3-4. The Jacksonville game was played in Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, giving Arkansas an all-time record of 79-19 in Little Rock-area games.
Auburn has a 10-day layoff between games for final exams. The Tigers' defeated Montana 73-51 Dec. 10 and play at UNLV in the Las Vegas Showdown Dec. 20. It is the Tigers' longest layoff this season. This will be the second time Auburn coach Cliff Ellis has faced UNLV. Ellis is 0-1 coaching against the Runnin' Rebels, losing 122-82 in Las Vegas in his inaugural DI coaching season at South Alabama in 1975-76. UNLV holds a 2-1 series lead against Auburn, including three consecutive wins. Auburn is making its second appearance in the Las Vegas Showdown. The Tigers erased a 14-point second-half deficit to defeat previously unbeaten Oregon in overtime in 2000. Auburn 6-9, 275 lb, freshman center Dwayne Curtis is now eligible to play for the Tigers. The Chicago native did not qualify out of Whitney Young HS, but attended Auburn as a part-time student in the fall semester. Curtis averaged a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds as a senior last year. Cliff Ellis just passed former St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca for 27th on the all-time coaching victory list at Division I institutions. Auburn is off to its best start at 7-0 for the first time in five years, dating back to the 1998-99 SEC Championship season when Auburn reeled off 17-straight wins. Auburn is shooting an impressive 46 percent (33-of-71) from 3-point range since a 1-of-14 effort in the Tigers' season opener.
The University of Florida fell to Louisville, 73-65, before a capacity crowd of 20,032 at Freedom Hall Saturday. David Lee scored a career-high 24 points and matched his career best with 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. The Gators rallied from 15 points down to cut the lead to five, but were unable to get any closer. The Gators held Louisville to just 38.8 percent from the floor, the sixth time in seven games they've held their opponent under 40 percent. Florida pulled down 47 rebounds and has pulled down 40+ rebounds in all seven games. The Gators have the week off before returning to action against West Virginia at the Orange Bowl Classic in Miami on Dec. 20. The University of Florida fell just short of its comeback bid, rallying from a 17-point deficit to force overtime, before falling to Maryland 69-68. The loss snapped a 40-game non-conference home winning streak for the Gators dating back to 1998. Florida shot a season-low 31.7 percent from the floor and trailed by 17 with 15:17 remaining in regulation before outscoring the Terps 26-9 over the remainder of regulation.
Georgia will finish up Fall Semester final exams Monday and Tuesday before playing its only game of the week Thursday at home against Charleston Southern. Further evidence of Rashad Wright's changing role on this year's team: the Bulldogs' top playmaker - perhaps of all time - has led the SEC in assist/turnover ratio two years running. Currently, though, he doesn't rank among the league's top 10 in that category. He does, however, lead the SEC in 3-pointers made per game and ranks among its leaders in 3-point percentage. Chris Daniels already has twice as many double-doubles (4) as he had during the entire 2003 season. Freshman forward Steve Newman has put together his two most productive games to date, scoring 10 and 12 in the Winthrop and Clemson games, respectively. Wright needs 39 assists to become Georgia's all-time leader in that category. The Bulldogs suffered an 80-60 loss to the Winthrop Eagles on last Tuesday night at Stegeman Coliseum. Winthrop gave up just seven turnovers and held Georgia to a season low 60 points. Senior guard Rashad Wright led Georgia with 15 points, hitting 4-of-6 three pointers. The Bulldogs trailed virtually the entire night, with their only lead of the game coming within the game's first minute.
Kentucky and Michigan State played in front of a world record crowd of 78,129 at Detroit's Ford Field. The previous record crowd for a basketball game was 75,000 for the Harlem Globetrotters at Berlin's Olympic Stadium in 1951. The prior NCAA record was 68,112 for an LSU-Notre Dame game in the Superdome in 1990. The Cats have now won 25-consecutive regular-season contests and 13-straight home games. The 5-0 Wildcats are off to their best start since since the 1992-93 Final Four club opened 11-0. Kentucky has appeared in 48 consecutive AP polls, the fourth-longest current streak in the nation. The last time UK wasn't ranked was Feb. 6, 2001. After shooting just 27.1 percent in the win over UCLA, UK responded with a 60.4 percent effort against Michigan State. The Cats hit 20-of-30 shots in the first half (66.7%). Junior Chuck Hayes recorded his eighth career double-double (second of the season) with a 17-point, 12-rebound effort versus Michigan State. Hayes tied his career high in points and had four assists, two blocks, two steals and no turnovers against the Spartans. He has grabbed at least 12 rebounds in each of the Cats' last four games. Kentucky's next three Saturdays feature games against Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina on CBS.
The Tigers for the second straight year won an important December nationally-televised non-conference game, this time against Utah, 65-51. The Tigers remain one of five unbeaten teams in the SEC and one of the last 21 unbeaten teams in Division I. Jaime Lloreda led LSU with 16 points, while Brandon Bass and Darrel Mitchell added 15 and 13 points, respectively. The Tigers are 5-0 for the first time since the 2000 season as LSU played for the first time in 17 days. LSU has now won 10 straight home games dating back to last season and 51 consecutive non-conference regular season home games dating back to December 1997. LSU resumes play on Saturday against Southern Miss and then concludes pre-Christmas play on Tuesday (Dec. 23) as Tulane comes to the Maravich Center for the first time since the 1982 NIT. That will be LSU's last home game until January 10 as the Tigers go to New Orleans for the Nokia Sugar Bowl Basketball Classic against UAB on Dec 27, play at Houston (Dec. 30), Centenary (Jan. 3) and at Arkansas (Jan. 6-ESPN) to open SEC play before coming home to face Alabama.
OLE MISS REBELS
The Rebels end an 11-day layoff Wednesday when they travel to Evansville for their second road game of the young campaign. Ole Miss dropped a pair of televised games last week against Florida State, in the first Rebel road game of the year, and at home for Memphis. Senior forward Justin Reed led the Rebels in points and rebounds in both games and has done so in all five contests this season. Reed posted his fourth 20-point outing of the year and 15th of his career against Memphis with 26. His 18-point performance at Florida State snapped a streak of five straight 20-point games, dating back to last season. No Rebel had managed such a stretch since Keith Carter in 1998-99. Ole Miss knocked down 8-of-16 second-half three-pointers vs. FSU in trimming an 18-point deficit to four. Freshman guard Todd Abernethy nailed 3-of-4 threes against the Seminoles in tallying a season-high 11 points and four assists. Junior forward Kendrick Fox posted a career-high 13 points and tied his career-best with five boards in the Memphis game. In the second half of its last two games, Ole Miss has made 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) from behind the three-point arc. Also in last week's two games, the Rebels committed a total of only 16 turnovers while forcing 28.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Lawrence Roberts had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Winsome Frazier scored 16, helping to keep Mississippi State unbeaten with a 77-59 victory over New Orleans on Tuesday night. Timmy Bowers had 13 points and eight assists and Shane Power added 10 points for the Bulldogs. The game was played at the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo, about 60 miles north of Mississippi State's Starkville campus. Mississippi State is 8-0 for the third time in six seasons under coach Rick Stansbury. The Bulldogs will play their next four games all away from the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will head out to California to take on Santa Clara Saturday night. State's only other meeting against Santa Clara resulted in a 75-67 Bulldog win in the first round of the 1995 NCAA West Regional played in Boise, Idaho. MSU has won 14 straight December contests dating back to the 2001-02 campaign. State enters Saturday's road contest at Santa Clara having prevailed in eight consecutive games played on the home floors of non-conference opponents in a streak that dates back to 2000-01. Timmy Bowers needs 20 more points to become the 26th member of MSU's all-time 1,000-point club.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Taking a week off for final exams, USC will play at Temple on Monday, Dec. 15. USC, a perfect 8-0 this season, will play the Owls as the third of three road games prior to the returning home for a six-game stand. On the road the past two games, USC defeated The Citadel 70-38 and Clemson 76-61. It will be USC's first trip to Temple since they lost to the Owls 63-50 in 1987. Dave Odom is 5-1 all-time against Temple, with the only loss coming in 1998 while at Wake Forest (a 48-59 loss in New York City in a Coaches vs. Cancer game). South Carolina's Mike Boynton, Jr. and Ivan Howell will receive their diplomas on Monday at 3:30 pm in The Colonial Center and then hop on a plane for Philadelphia - with hopes of them arriving by game-time at 7 pm. Carolina currently has an eight-game winning streak to start the 2003-04 season. The last team to ever start the season at least 8-0 was the 1970-71 team. That team ended up 24-5 and lost to Villanova in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament. USC's 76-61 win at Clemson was the fourth straight over the Tigers. All four wins have all been double digit victories.
Tennessee will look to bounce back from a 62-77 loss at Nebraska on Dec. 13 when the Vols return to Thompson-Boling Arena to host The Citadel on Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. The Citadel game is the first game of a four-game homestand for the Vols. Scooter McFadgon leads Tennessee with 18.3 points per game and is among the national leaders with his 90.0 free throw percentage. Brandon Crump is coming off a career-high 25-point outing at Nebraska and is averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore point guard C.J. Watson is averaging 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game. The Citadel game will be the second of four contests over a 10 day period for the Vols. Crump needs one point to reach the 600 career point milestone. The Vols have outshot their opponents at the free throw line 123-71 in the first four games. UT has made more free throws (85) than its opponents have attempted (71).
At 7-0, Vanderbilt is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season, when Kevin Stallings' inaugural team started 9-0. It marks the seventh time in school history a Commodore squad has begun a campaign with seven consecutive victories. Vanderbilt is averaging 43.0 rebounds a game, the most since the 1972-73 team (46.6 rpg). The Commodores have outrebounded all seven of their opponents by a margin of 12.4 boards a game. The Commodores have outscored the opposition by an average of 20 points per contest. Senior forward Matt Freije came within one point of a career high when he poured in a game-high 31 points in VU's 98-79 win against Tennessee Tech (12/13). Freije set a career high with 12 made field goals. It marked the second time this season (11/24-vs. Indiana [32 points]) and the third time of his career (1/29/03-vs. Georgia [31 points]) that Freije netted 30-plus points in a game. Sophomore forward/center Julian Terrell scored a career-high 16 points and handed out a career-best six assists against Tennessee Tech (12/13). The Commodores tied a single-game school record dishing out 29 assists against the Golden Eagles. Vanderbilt's 85-64 win against Tennessee State (12/10) marked the 600th all-time victory at Memorial Gym, the SEC's most historic arena now in its 52nd season. After a week of finals, the Commodores resume play by welcoming Wofford, Saturday, Dec. 20, for a 7 p.m. CT contest.