SEC Friday basketball notes

Earnest Shelton, who suffered a knee sprain in the first half of the January 21st Georgia game, completely sat out the Ole Miss and Florida games and played for only five minutes in the January 31st LSU game returned to Alabama's starting lineup on February 4 at South Carolina.

For the first time this season, two Alabama players scored 20 or more points in a single game as Earnest Shelton scored 23 and Kennedy Winston 20 in Alabama's 90-82 loss in overtime at No. 25 South Carolina. It's the sixth time Shelton has scored 20 or more this season and the seventh time for Winston. Alabama made 16 of 31 three-point shots attempted, tying a 1996 school record in its game at South Carolina on Wednesday night. Earnest Shelton, who suffered a knee sprain in the first half of the January 21st Georgia game, completely sat out the Ole Miss and Florida games and played for only five minutes in the January 31st LSU game returned to Alabama's starting lineup on February 4 at South Carolina. Despite the layoff that found him sitting out of nearly two weeks of practices, the junior from Memphis proved he stayed in shape during the layoff, playing 40 minutes of the game that went into overtime. He played 35 minutes in regulation and all five of the overtime. Alabama is off this weekend, returning to play on Tuesday, February 10 at No. 9 Kentucky.

Junior Michael Jones hit six of seven shots, including five of six three-pointers, and led Arkansas with 17 points in Wednesday's 74-52 win over Auburn. Jones had 18 points in the win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 24. In between those games, he had two points at Georgia, but his 37 points in the last three games are more then he had scored for the entire season heading into the Vanderbilt game. He had 35 points for the year through the first 16 games. The 22-point margin of victory is the largest for Arkansas in an SEC game since beating LSU by 22 on Jan. 27, 1999, 86-64. In the Auburn game, UA forward/quarterback Matt Jones scored a career-high 11 points on four of five shooting. Arkansas' 11-8 record at this point in the season is its best since 2001 when the Razorbacks were 12-7 through 19 games. In Saturday's loss at Georgia, Arkansas made just one of 15 three-point attempts. Ronnie Brewer's three with 10:29 to play in the first half was the only three of the game for the Razorbacks, but it extended UA's streak of consecutive games with at least one three-point bucket to 505, the fifth-longest streak in the nation. With the win over No. 22 Vanderbilt last Wednesday, Arkansas recorded its first win over a ranked opponent in three attempts this season.

Auburn and Georgia have played each other 165 times, marking the Bulldogs the Tigers' most common opponent in their 98 seasons of basketball. In fact, the Tigers have a slim 83-82 series edge. All 165 games in the series have been decided by less than a one point average. Auburn has won four of the last six games in the series and five of the last eight. The Tigers lead 38-11 in Auburn and 19-10 in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. Cliff Ellis has a 7-4 record against Georgia and has won four of the last six. Ellis is 0-1 coaching against Dennis Felton, losing to Felton's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 89-70 in Nashville last season. Former Auburn head coach Sonny Smith (1978-79 to 1988-89) will be honored at halftime of the Georgia game for his continuing contributions to Auburn and college basketball. Smith recorded a 173-154 record in his 11-year Tiger career, including five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1984-88. Auburn is 9-1 this season when the Tigers score 70 points or more. Auburn is 2-7 this season when scoring fewer than 70 points. Auburn is 1-4 this season in games decided by six points or less. According to, Auburn's 2003-04 basketball schedule is ranked as the 30th toughest in nation.

Unable to hold on to an 11-point lead with just under seven minutes to go, Florida lost its second straight SEC game, falling 68-65 to Kentucky. Anthony Roberson scored 19, his fifth consecutive game with 15 or more points, while Matt Walsh hit 5-of-11 shots to finish with 16 points. Despite out-rebounding Kentucky 30-28, including 12 on the offensive end, Florida didn't get a field goal over the final 6:40 and did not score in the final 2:57, letting Kentucky claw back from a 59-48 deficit. Florida held its opponent to 20 or less field goals for the fifth time in the last seven games, however, hit only 21-of-50 shots on the night. With Roberson's performance, he is averaging 17.0 points in league play, while Walsh is averaging 14.8. Combined with David Lee's 14.1 points per game in conference play, the trio is averaging 45.9 of Florida's 73.0 points per game in the SEC season. The Gators hit 8-of-20 from beyond the arc against Kentucky to raise their season three-point percentage to .373. The Gators take on their fourth ranked opponent in the last seven games on Saturday when Vanderbilt comes to the O'Connell Center.

Georgia wraps up its annual six-game slate of games against the SEC Western Division with a Saturday afternoon contest at Auburn. Against Auburn, the Bulldogs will try to match their longest winning streak of the season. Senior guard Rashad Wright can hardly be faulted for his failure to break the school's career assist record Wednesday against Ole Miss. He needed four assists to tie the mark, five to break it, and he played the last 19 minutes of that game with four to his credit. Wright was busy making 5-of-6 three-pointers in the second half, pacing the Bulldogs with 21 points. Call it little more than a statistical anomaly, but in the Ole Miss game, Georgia made more threes (11) than twos (9) for the first time since midway through the 2002 season. The Dogs' 11 treys were a season high. Yes, Georgia ranks ninth in the SEC in scoring defense at 66.7 points per contest, but the Bulldogs, however, have surrendered that many points just once in their past six games. Georgia's last two opponents have shot just 38 percent from the field, 24 percent from 3-point range. Georgia stopped its longest SEC losing streak in four years with a win over Arkansas, last Saturday. The Bulldogs' 71 points were their most in a regulation 40-minute game since Dec. 22.

Kentucky hosts South Carolina Saturday in a battle for first place in the Eastern Division. UK leads the all-time series with the Gamecocks, 31-5, including a 16-1 edge in Lexington. The Wildcats trailed Florida by eight with 2:57 remaining Tuesday before scoring the game's final 11 points for a 68-65 victory. The win was Kentucky's fifth-straight over the Gators, including three-straight in Gainesville. UK has now won 28 of its last 31 games away from Rupp Arena and 41 of its last 45 overall. Erik Daniels continues to set the pace for UK in league play, averaging 17.9 points (fourth in the conference) against SEC opponents. He had a game-high 22 points in Tuesday's win over Florida. The Wildcats have held a double-digit lead in 16 of their 18 games this season, failing to gain that big of a lead against North Carolina (eight point lead) and Georgia (one point lead). Gerald Fitch scored 10 points and Cliff Hawkins finished with nine for Kentucky. UK is 14-0 this season when scoring more than 60 points. None of Kentucky's 18 opponents this season have shot 50 percent from the field. Only Tennessee Tech (.492) has shot better than 47 percent. Gerald Fitch is now in the 35th spot on UK's career scoring list. He has 1,205 points, four behind No. 34 Rodrick Rhodes.

LSU won its third straight game with an 84-67 win over Tennessee at the Maravich Assembly Center Wednesday. The Tigers are now 5-3 in the league. LSU is now 42-0 in the John Brady era when scoring 80 points or more in a game. Darrel Mitchell had a career high 22 points, making six treys, while Antonio Hudson off the bench hit four in a 17-point night. LSU was 10-of-18 from the three-point line (55.6%) and for the game hit 60.4 percent of their field goal attempts. Jaime Lloreda doubled up for the 12th time this season, the fourth straight game with 18 points and 12 assists. Mitchell had eight assists and no turnovers. LSU hosts Arkansas at Noon Saturday in one half of the split region JP Sports contest. LSU defeated Arkansas, 66-55, in the league opener at Fayetteville on Jan. 6. Brandon Bass led LSU with 20 points and Mitchell had 13. Lloreda had just seven points, the only game under double digits this season, but he did grab 15 rebounds in the process. Arkansas leads the overall series, 24-13, but Tigers have won three straight and five of the last six games. The Tigers won both games last week, over Georgia and at Alabama.

Ole Miss looks for its first SEC road win of the season Saturday against Mississippi State. Wednesday's game will the 229th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 127-101. MSU boasts an 83-23 edge in Starkville. The Rebels are winners in three of their last five, despite a 64-51 loss at Georgia on Wednesday. At one point, the two teams combined to hit nine consecutive three-pointers. Seniors Justin Reed and Aaron Harper each posted 19 points. Reed is tied for the SEC lead in scoring and posted a career-high 32 points against South Carolina on Saturday. He has dropped in double-figure points in 10 straight games. Harper is averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists over his last six games. Freshman Todd Abernethy collected a career-high seven assists with no turnovers at UGA. Junior Kendrick Fox is shooting 66.7 percent and scoring 10.0 over the last three games. Ole Miss earned its first victory over a top-25 foe this season, knocking off No. 23/24 South Carolina 79-68 last Saturday. It ran the Rebels' home SEC winning streak to three games. Senior Justin Reed posted a career-high 32 points to take over the Southeastern Conference lead in scoring.

The Bulldogs will take the midweek off from competition before playing host to Mississippi on Saturday. The Bulldogs' current five-game SEC winning streak is the team's longest since closing out the 2001-02 regular season with five straight league wins and then posting three successive SEC Tournament victories en route to claiming their second league tournament championship. MSU's 7-1 conference record is the team's best eight-game league mark since beginning the 1962-63 campaign with an 8-1 mark. The Bulldogs have had four players score in double figures during each of their five SEC wins since their last-second 67-66 home loss to Kentucky on Jan. 13. Roberts is also attempting to become the first State player since Rickey Brown (1979-80) to average a double-double during the course of an entire season. Including last month's 61-54 win in Oxford, the Bulldogs have prevailed in the last five MSU-UM hardwood meetings. The Bulldogs have won 18 of the last 20 Starkville meetings between the two in-state rivals. MSU's four straight SEC road wins this season mark the most for a State squad since the 1995-96 NCAA Final Four team posted four league road victories on the year.

Kentucky leads the series 31-5 and holds a 16-1 edge in Lexington. The Gamecocks defeated Kentucky 70-57 in Atlanta in the 2002 SEC Tournament but have not won since the 1996-97 season in Lexington. That is their only win against the Wildcats in Lexington. The Gamecocks still prove to show balance as they had five players score in double figures on Wednesday night but the team scored 90 points. Josh Gonner continued to light it up as he scored 22 points on Wednesday night making it his third game of the season with 20+ points. The South Carolina-Alabama game on Wednesday night showed the display of the long-range shot with thirty three-pointers made by both teams (16 Alabama, 14 South Carolina). Three of the top four scoring performances this season have came against SEC opponents The Gamecocks have played four home SEC games so far and have went 3-1. All three games have seen a packed crowd in the Colonial Center as 15,000 or more have packed the Center in those four games. (15,042 vs. Florida, 17,806 vs. Tennessee, 17,927 vs. LSU, and 16,227 vs. Alabama).

Exactly midway through their SEC schedule, the Vols will take their final non-conference break when Georgia Tech visit Thompson-Boling Arena for a 3 p.m. contest Saturday, Feb. 7. Tennessee is looking to get back on the winning track after falling to LSU 67-84 in Baton Rouge Wednesday. Scooter McFadgon's 21 points and Jemere Hendrix's 12 points and seven rebounds weren't enough to overcome the Tigers' 60.4 percent shooting, including 55.6 percent 3-point shooting. Georgia Tech is making its first trip to Knoxville since Dec. 17, 1968, when the Yellow Jackets dropped a 72-59 decision to the Vols at Stokely Athletic Center. The Georgia Tech matchup is the final game in a nine-game stretch where the Vols play seven contests against teams listed in the AP Top 25 Poll. McFadgon's 21 points against LSU increased his scoring average to an SEC-leading 19.1 points per game. He leads the SEC and ranks third nationally with a 92.2 free throw percentage. The Memphis native needs one point to reach the 1,000-career point mark. McFadgon is shooting 92.2 percent (95-of-103) from the line to rank first on Tennessee's single season free throw percentage list. Bill Justus has held the record at 92.0 percent (133-of-147) since the 1968-69 season.

Matt Freije posted his second double-double of the week with 20 points and 11 rebounds to help Vanderbilt upset No. 5 Kentucky 66-60 Saturday. The Commodores outscored the Wildcats 23-7 during the final 13:03, limiting UK to three field goals. Dawid Przybyszewski sparked VU with 13 points off the bench. VU's bench outscored Kentucky reserves 32-12. For the season the Commodore bench holds a 530-287 advantage (+13.5) over its opponent's reserves. Kentucky shot 37.3 percent from the field, becoming Vanderbilt's 10th opponent this season to shoot under 40 percent. Vanderbilt has held its opponent to 60 or fewer points 10 times this season. Freije (1,618 points and 522 rebounds) is only the third player in Vanderbilt history with more than 1,600 career points and 500 career rebounds, joining Clyde Lee (1,691 points and 1,223 rebounds) and Charles Davis (1,675 points and 746 rebounds). He is averaging 22.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in Vanderbilt's last four games. VU improves to 12-1 at home and has won 12 or more games 39 times in the 52-year history of Memorial Gymnasium. Vanderbilt travels to Florida on Saturday.

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