SEC Team-by-Team notes
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Emmett Thomas, who is averaging 8.8 points, is listed as the probable starter in Shelton's place when Alabama travels to Oxford, Miss., to play the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday. Shelton will be out indefinitely while the knee heals. Alabama takes a three-game SEC win streak into Oxford on Saturday, having won its last three games against, in order, Arkansas, Auburn and at Georgia. When Alabama faces Ole Miss Saturday, the game pits two men who have both played in this series, both against one another. Mark Gottfried was a starting guard for the Crimson Tide for three seasons, 1985, 1986 and 1987. Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes played for the Rebels from 1984-88. Both are coaching at their Alma Mater. As of Friday, Alabama ranks second in the nation in strength of schedule, according to CollegeRPI.com.
Sophomore guard Eric Ferguson led the Razorbacks in scoring for the second straight game with 18 points at Auburn. He led the team with 19 points against Ole Miss. Arkansas had its second-best shooting half of the season in the first period at Auburn. UA was 18-of-31 for 58.1 percent. In the second half of the 85-65 win over Jacksonville University on Nov. 29, Arkansas shot 58.8 percent (20-34). Senior Billy Pharis did not score at Auburn, marking the first time he's failed to score in a game this year since the season-opener against Nicholls State on Nov. 21. Freshman Olu Famutimi scored a season-high 14 points at Auburn. Eric Ferguson has made 16 consecutive free throws over the last seven games while sophomore Kendrick Davis has made 12 straight over the last four. Arkansas snapped a seven-game losing streak to Ole Miss with last Saturday's 86-78 victory over the Rebels. It is UA's first win over Ole Miss since Jan. 5, 2000, when the Razorbacks recorded a 71-64 victory in Fayetteville. In the win over Ole Miss, Arkansas set a school record by making 48 free throws. UA was 48-of-53. The 48 made free throws also matches the SEC record set by Tennessee (48-59) against Kentucky in 1992.
Quinnel Brown scored all 16 of his points in the final nine minutes, including four 3-pointers, and Auburn rallied for a 70-63 victory over Arkansas Wednesday night. Auburn now goes to Florida to face the nationally-ranked Gators in a game to be shown on CBS at 2:30 pm CT. This is the 149th meeting between the Tigers and Gators with Auburn holding an 86-62 series edge, but Florida has four consecutive wins. The Gators hold a 40-28 lead in Gainesville, including a 12-5 mark in the O'Connell Center. Auburn has dropped three straight games in Gainesville, last winning 73-70 after Ray Donald drilled a 3-pointer with :01 left to give the 22nd-ranked Tigers the victory on Feb. 10, 1996. The Tigers have lost eight of their last nine to the Gators in the O'Connell Center. Cliff Ellis is 3-7 coaching against Billy Donovan. Ellis is 0-3 vs. Donovan in Gainesville. The Florida game is the 300th contest head coach Cliff Ellis has coached at Auburn. At 183-116 (.612) in his 10th year at the Tiger helm. Auburn is 1-3 this season in games decided by six points or less. The Tigers defeated College of Charleston 66-62 in their season opener but have lost to South Carolina (53-51), at Vanderbilt (59-53) and to Georgia State (77-72).
Florida had its 13-game home winning streak against SEC West opponents snapped by Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs rolled out of Gainesville with a 79-68 victory. Anthony Roberson posted his fifth 20-point game of the season with exactly 20 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome a Mississippi State squad that hit 51.9 percent from the floor and out-rebounded Florida 39-32. Roberson added six assists while Matt Walsh scored 17 for UF. Despite the loss, Florida is still 24-7 against the SEC West over the past five-plus seasons with their next two games against SEC West opponents Auburn and Alabama. Florida couldn't overcome a hot-shooting Vanderbilt team that hit 63.3 percent over the final 20 minutes, as the Gators were the final SEC team to fall from the ranks of unbeaten in league play, dropping a 86-72 decision in Nashville on last Saturday. The Gators shot 51.2 percent and lost for only the 10th time in 83 games under Billy Donovan when shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. Matt Walsh hit 6-of-9 shots to lead UF with 16 points, while David Lee had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Georgia dropped its third SEC game as Alabama senior Antoine Pettway drained an open three-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Crimson Tide a 45-42 victory on Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (9-6, 1-3 SEC) clung to the lead throughout most of the low-scoring contest, but let the game slip away in the final minutes, shooting just 26.1 percent from the field in the second half. Senior Damien Wilkins hit his only field goal of the game with 4:14 to play to put Georgia up 41-38. Alabama then went on to sink three baskets answered only by a single free throw from senior Jonas Hayes to steal the victory. Senior Rashad Wright led all scorers with 14 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the field, but it was not enough to overcome Alabama's second half charge led by nine points from Pettway. It took nearly five minutes for either team to put points on the board with Georgia scoring first on an alley-oop by Hayes with 15:24 to play in the first half. The Bulldogs had a 22-18 halftime lead. Stukes accounted for 11 points on the night and led the team with nine rebounds. The Bulldogs now embark on a two-game road trip, playing at Mississippi State and LSU before returning home to face Arkansas on Jan. 31 at 5 pm in Stegeman Coliseum.
Kentucky has held a double-digit lead in every game this year except for the loss to Georgia, when the Wildcats biggest lead was one point. Tubby Smith recorded his 300th career win against Tennessee on Jan. 20. It took him just 411 games to reach 300 wins, the sixth-quickest coach in history to do so. Kentucky has won 38 of its last 41 games overall and 26 of its last 28 games away from Rupp Arena. UK has won 10-straight SEC road games. The Cats last SEC road loss was at Vanderbilt (86-73) on Feb. 27, 2002. The Wildcats are 205-25 (.891) in regular-season SEC games at Rupp Arena, including a 44-6 (.880) record in the Tubby Smith era. UK's largest lead of the season is 39 points against both Indiana and Eastern Kentucky. The Cats' largest deficit of the year is 11 against Georgia. The Cats are 11-0 when scoring 60 or more points this season. None of UK's 14 opponents this season has topped 50% shooting from the field. UK's 69-68 OT win at Tennessee was it first overtime game in two years (76-74 loss at Tennessee in 2002) and first overtime win in four years (85-80 vs. St. Bonaventure in 2000 NCAA Tournament). Gerald Fitch is tied for 38th all-time in scoring at UK with 1,153 points.
The Tigers are coming off a 53-49 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford on Wednesday night. Jaime Lloreda led LSU with 14 points, while Lloreda, Brandon Bass and Regis Koundjia all had nine rebounds. LSU continued to struggle in the perimeter, shooting 26.3 percent from three point range. In LSU's three losses, the Tigers have failed to score 60 points and had no better than a 27 percent three-point shooting accuracy. On the other hand, LSU has held its last 13 opponents to no more than 66 points and is 16th nationally in field goal defense. Lloreda continues to be second in the nation in rebounding with his 11.4 rebounds per game average. LSU had two of the five members of ESPN's Silver Anniversary SEC team announced Tuesday highlighting ESPN's 25-years of college basketball -- Chris Jackson (1989-90) and Shaquille O'Neal (1990-92). Jackson in his fifth LSU game as a freshman scored 53 in his LSU debut in a win at Florida. LSU and South Carolina meet Saturday at the Colonial Center for the 16th time with South Carolina leading 9-6. LSU won last year in Baton Rouge, 71-58. LSU holds a 4-3 edge in Carolina.
OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss looks for its second straight Southeastern Conference victory, as the Rebels host Alabama Saturday in their fifth straight Western Division encounter. Ole Miss has won the last six meetings against Alabama at Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss nailed down its first SEC win Wednesday, knocking off LSU 53-49 behind the senior tandem of Aaron Harper and Justin Reed. Harper posted 22 points and five assists, while Reed added 16 points and nine rebounds. Harper has posted 22 points and five or more assists in each of the last two games. Ole Miss limited LSU to 36.4 percent shooting and allowed only one player, Jaime Lloreda, in double-figures. It also marked the fifth time this season and 24th time in Barnes' six years at the helm that Ole Miss has held its opponent under 50 points. Harper is set to become the Rebels' all-time leader in three-pointers made. He enters Saturday's game with 244 career threes, five behind Ole Miss great Keith Carter (1996-99).Despite a strong second-half comeback, Ole Miss fell short Saturday at Arkansas, 86-78. It snapped a seven-game win streak against the Razorbacks. Aaron Harper turned in 19 points in the second half and finished with 22, eight rebounds and six assists, all team highs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
In the midst of playing three straight games against SEC Eastern Division opponents, MSU plays host to Georgia on Saturday looking to snap a three-game series losing skid against UGA... State will continue to stay at home to play host to SEC East foe Tennessee next Wednesday. State's 4-1 SEC record is the team's best five-game league mark since starting off 5-0 (and 6-1) during the 1993-94 season. The Bulldogs' 79-68 road win at No. 17 Florida earlier in the week marked their first victory in Gainesville since the team's 1995-96 Final Four campaign. This week's 11-point win at UF snapped MSU's six-game losing skid against nationally ranked opponents dating back to last season, as well as having halted the program's 18-game winless streak against Top 25-ranked SEC opponents on the road in a string that had also dated back to the 1995-96 season. The Bulldogs lead all SEC schools with seven true road wins this season, including three straight league road wins in one season for the first time since the 1994-95 State squad claimed four consecutive conference road wins (and five total for the season) en route to posting a 12-4 SEC mark and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
South Carolina has won three of the last four games against LSU in Columbia. South Carolina won the last meeting in Columbia 66-53 on Feb. 20, 2001. This trip will be LSU's first to the Colonial Center. LSU is one of two teams in the SEC that Carolina has a winning overall series record against. USC is 9-6 against LSU and is 17-15 against Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks are 19-4 against teams visiting the Colonial Center for the first time. USC is 4-4 against SEC opponents coming to the Colonial Center for the first time. The four losses were last year to Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Georgia while the Gamecocks defeated Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi. The only SEC teams that have not came to play USC in the Colonial Center are LSU (1/24), Alabama (2/4), and Mississippi State (2/11). Carlos Powell has scored in double figures every game this season and tied a career-high with seven assists against UT. Josh Gonner lead the Gamecocks with a career-high 24 points. South Carolina is off to it's best start in SEC play since the 96-97 team opened 4-0.
Tennessee will take a brief break from SEC action to host the sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals Sunday, Jan. 25, at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols fell to 10-4 on the season and 2-3 in SEC action with a 68-69 overtime loss to ninth-ranked Kentucky Tuesday night in Knoxville. Scooter McFadgon led all scorers with 33 points after scoring 19 of the Vols' first 24 points. Brandon Crump recorded a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. The Louisville game continues a nine-game stretch where the Vols play eight opponents currently listed in the AP Top 25 Poll. This is the third meeting in as many years between Tennessee and Louisville. The Cards won last year's game 72-69 on Kendall Dartez's jumper with 54 seconds left. Tennessee has outscored its opponents 284-150 at the free throw line this season. The Vols lead the SEC by making 74.9 percent of their free throws on the year. Tennessee is playing its fourth ranked team in its last five games. The Vols have played No. 14 Florida, No. 23 Vanderbilt, No. 9 Kentucky and now No. 5 Louisville. McFadgon's 33 points against Kentucky (1/20/04) marked the third time this season he has scored 30 or more points. It is the most points by a Vol since Ron Slay's 38 against New Mexico (1/4/03).
Matt Freije, Mario Moore and Corey Smith combined to score 58 points in Vanderbilt's 86-72 victory against Florida, last Saturday. Freije netted a game-high 23 points while Moore made five three-pointers in tallying 21 points. Smith scored 14 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and handed out six assists. At 13-2, Vanderbilt owns its best record through 15 games since the 1973-74 squad began its season 14-1. That team went on to win the SEC and finish with a 23-5 overall record. Vanderbilt recorded its best home start of the Stallings era at 11-0 with the win over Florida. It marks the best home start since the 1992-93 Commodore squad went undefeated at home (13-0) and won the SEC Eastern Division. Freije ranks in the top 10 of seven VU career statistical categories, including points (8th - 1553), field goals made (9th - 533), field goals attempted (t10th - 1156), free throws made (10th - 344), three-pointers made (7th - 143), three-pointers attempted (8th - 400) and blocks (4th - 62). The Commodores have totaled 20 or more assists in eight of their 15 games this year. VU travels to Arkansas, Saturday, Jan. 24. The game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot Sports.