ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The Bama/Vol match-up is a close series, one in which Alabama leads 67-60. The Tennessee game will pit some players who were formerly teammates against one another. Alabama junior guard Earnest Shelton and Vols freshman guard Dane Bradshaw won a state championship together at White Station High School in Memphis, and Alabama freshman Jermareo Davidson and Tennessee freshman Major Wingate summered together as AAU teammates in Georgia. In its last five games, all against the SEC, Alabama is averaging 8.4 three-point shots a game, finds freshman Jermareo Davidson shooting .563% from the field and Kennedy Winston aiding the 3-point game with his .464% shooting and averaging 19.0 points. Alabama's defense has held 16 of its 20 opponents to shooting under 50%. The Tide's 3-point game finds it making four or more long shots in 19 of its 20 games.
In Wednesday's game at Tennessee, Arkansas freshman Olu Famutimi was eight of 15 from the field for a team-high 18 points, all season highs. He also had five rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Matt Jones had a career-high seven assists with no turnovers along with seven points and seven rebounds. Senior Billy Pharis had 11 points and eight rebounds at UT, the most points he's had in eight games and the most rebounds in nine. Junior Michael Jones has scored in double figures in three of the last five games. Saturday's home game against No. 6 Mississippi State is Arkansas' fourth this year against a ranked team. The Razorbacks are 1-2 in those matchups. Arkansas is 30-14 all-time against ranked teams at home, including a 1-0 mark this year with the 70-62 win over then-No. 22 Vanderbilt on Jan. 24. Sophomore Matt Jones recorded his first career double-double for the Razorbacks with career highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds in last Saturday's game at LSU in a career-high 34 minutes. The performance came three days after he scored what was then a career-high 11 points in a Wednesday win over Auburn. The 14-point and 11-point outings came in his first two starts of the year.
This is the 108th meeting between the Tigers and Rebels with Auburn holding a 66-41 advantage and winning four straight. Ole Miss leads 30-21 in Oxford, 24-13 in Tad Smith Coliseum. Cliff Ellis is 7-4 coaching against Rod Barnes and is 11-9 vs. Ole Miss. Rod Barnes is 4-7 against Auburn. Senior Kyle Davis has recorded double-figure rebounding totals in six of the last 12 games. During this 10-game span, he is averaging 8.8 rebounds (97). Junior Marco Killingsworth is averaging a team-high 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds (2nd) for Auburn this year. He ranks 10th nationally and is leading the SEC in field goal percentage, for the second consecutive season, shooting 62 percent this season. The Montgomery Ala., native has scored 942 career points, needing 58 to become the 28th Tiger in Auburn history to score 1,000 points. Auburn is 9-1 this season when the Tigers score 70 points or more. The only loss came to Georgia State (77-72) Dec. 22, on the heels of the Tigers returning on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas after the UNLV game. Auburn is 3-7 this season when scoring fewer than 70 points. The only wins for the Tigers when scoring 69 points of less came against College of Charleston (66-62), Air Force (68-49) and Georgia (57-54).
Florida posted its third win against a ranked opponent, taking an 81-71 decision over Vanderbilt. Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson combined for 50 points, scoring 25 apiece to lead the offensive charge. It was the second time during SEC play that two Gators combined for as many points. Florida hit only 18 field goals but won the game at the line, connecting on 35-of-39 free throws (89.7 percent). Florida connected on 27 straight free throws at one stretch, while the evening was highlighted by Walsh going 14-for-14. Florida's sophomores scored the Gators' first 31 points before David Lee sank a free throw with 1:21 remaining in the first half. Roberson scored 22 of his 25 after the break. The Gators out-rebounded Vanderbilt 34-28, grabbing 12 on the offensive end. Florida turned the ball over just eight times, their second lowest output of the season (seven vs. Alabama). Florida hit on 10-of-23 three-pointers, the 40th time in 242 games they've done so under Billy Donovan. For Donovan, it was his 198th career victory. Florida has the week off before returning to action on Feb. 14 vs. LSU.
Vanderbilt held Georgia without a field goal over a 14-minute stretch in a 61-39 victory Wednesday night. Georgia came into the game with four players averaging double figures in points, but the Bulldogs hit just 28.3 percent (13-of-46) from the field. Levi Stukes finished with a team-high nine points. The Bulldogs' leading scorer, Rashad Wright, who is averaging nearly 14 points a game, didn't play after injuring his left ankle Saturday against Auburn. That snapped Wright's streak of consecutive starts at 98. Georgia finishes the regular season with six straight games against Eastern Division teams. Last week against Ole Miss, Georgia made more 3-pointers than it did 2-pointers for the first time since midway through the 2002 season. Senior guard Rashad Wright became the school's all-time assists leader on a Jonas Hayes jumper midway in the second half of the Auburn game last Saturday. He had tied Litterial Green's total of 466 with four assists last week against Ole Miss. Wright also set a career high with six 3-pointers in the Ole Miss game. Auburn is the only SEC venue where the 4-year senior tandem of Wright and Chris Daniels will have never won. Georgia lost at Auburn, 57-54. Chris Daniels led UGA with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Antwain Barbour scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the win over Alabama. The senior, playing in place of the injured Gerald Fitch, scored UK's first 13 points against the Tide. Kelenna Azubuike grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds vs. Alabama, giving him 19 over the last two games. It was his second career double-figure rebounding effort. The Wildcats defeated South Carolina last Saturday in their first game without leading scorer Gerald Fitch. Fitch has missed the last two games with a sprained right index finger. A senior who has started 102 games for UK during his career, is day-to-day. Fitch is currently 35th on UK's career scoring list. He has 1,205 points, four behind No. 34 Rodrick Rhodes (1993-95). Kentucky is 7-0 this year in games decided by five points or less, 4-0 in SEC play. Kentucky has held a double-digit lead in 17 of its 20 games. The exceptions were against North Carolina (eight-point lead), Georgia (one) and South Carolina (six). UK is 16-0 this season when scoring more than 60 points. The Cats' have held their last 13 opponents to 68 points or less. None of Kentucky's 20 opponents this season have shot 50 percent from the field. Only one team (Tennessee Tech, .492) has shot better than 47 percent.
LSU won two games last week at home against Tennessee 84-67 and Arkansas 65-52. In the Tennessee game, Darrel Mitchell led LSU with a career high 22 points, hitting six threes and having eight assists and no turnovers. Against Arkansas, Jaime Lloreda had his fifth consecutive double-double with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Lloreda is three rebounds short of becoming the 32nd player in LSU history to pull down 500 rebounds in a career and just the third to do it in two years of play. Lloreda continues to record a double-double in averages at 17.4 points per game and 12.0 rebounds a game. He is the conference leader in rebounds overall and in league games and is second in the nation. The Tigers have won four straight games to go to 6-3 in the league and 16-4 overall, tied for the third best 20-game record in the last 20 years at LSU. LSU has Wednesday off and will travel to Gainesville for a 2 p.m. CST time JP Sports game with Florida. LSU won the last meeting in New Orleans in the SEC Quarterfinals, 65-61, stopping a six-game Florida win streak. LSU's last win in the O'Connell Center was in 1998.
OLE MISS REBELS
Following a midweek break, Ole Miss looks to extend its three-game home win streak Saturday against Auburn. All three of the Rebels' conference wins have come at home, including a 79-68 victory over No. 23 South Carolina in their last contest at Tad Smith Coliseum. In head coach Rod Barnes' era, Ole Miss has a home record of 74-17 (.813 winning percentage), including a 30-14 home-court mark against SEC foes (.682 winning percentage). Ole Miss has won 8 of the last 10 Oxford meetings with Auburn. The Rebels dropped their second straight loss Saturday at No. 7 Mississippi State. Senior Aaron Harper posted a team-high 16 points and is averaging 18.3 over his last seven games. Freshman point guard Todd Abernethy turned in his third double-figure outing of the year with 10 points. Senior Justin Reed notched his 11th straight double-digit scoring game. The Rebels fell on the road Wednesday 64-51 at Georgia. At one point, the two teams combined to hit nine consecutive three-pointers. Reed and Harper each posted 19 points. Abernethy collected a career-high seven assists with no turnovers at UGA. Ole Miss earned its first victory over a top-25 foe this season, knocking off No. 23/24 South Carolina last Saturday. Reed posted a career-high 32 points.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Mississippi State's "road warriors" will attempt to keep their unblemished road record in tact by heading to Arkansas looking for their first-ever win at Bud Walton Arena. MSU is 0-10 at Bud Walton since the facility opened in 1993. State is looking for its first season sweep of Arkansas since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1991 (0-12 in Fayetteville). In becoming the SEC's first team to eclipse the 20-win mark this season, the 20-1 Bulldogs have now posted three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in the school's 92-year hoops history. Undefeated in nine true road games this season, MSU is tied for third nationally behind Saint Joseph's (12-0) and East Tennessee State (10-3) among the winningest road teams in Division I. The Bulldogs' current No. 6 national ranking in both polls marks the school's highest AP ranking since 1962-63. MSU's current seven-game SEC winning streak is the school's longest such string in regular-season play since winning seven straight conference games in 1962-63. Wednesday's come-from-behind 79-75 overtime win at No. 22 South Carolina marked the third time this season that the Bulldogs have overcome a 12-point deficit to win on the road.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
With one more win, Dave Odom will be only the third coach in USC history to coach USC to two or more 20-win seasons. The others: Eddie Fogler and Frank McGuire. The attendances for the Mississippi State game was 17,792, the third largest crowd in The Colonial Center. The game sold out around 4 pm on Wednesday, the second time this season the game sold out prior to tip-off. Rolando Howell tied a career high of 24 points and recorded a season high of 11 rebounds. He hit 8-of-9 free throws in the 79-75 overtime loss. It was the second consecutive home game that the Gamecocks have gone into overtime. USC is 2-1 in OT games this year in the SEC - with wins over Alabama and at Auburn and the loss against MSU last night. The 10 blocks were the most that South Carolina has had in a conference game this season. The previous high was nine against Auburn. Rolando Howell and Carlos Powell are both fighting to score 1,000 career points this season. Howell has 921 career points and Powell has 912 points, they would be the 38th and 39th players in USC history to accomplish this.
The Volunteers travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to meet Alabama on Saturday. UT won its 12th game on the season with a 69-65 win over Arkansas Wednesday in Knoxville. The Vols enjoyed their best shooting effort in over a month by making 50.9 percent of their field goals while holding the Hogs to 36.8 percent shooting. Scooter McFadgon led all scorers with 19 points while Brandon Crump turned in a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. C.J. Watson had a solid all-around game with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Buzz Peterson will be looking for his 150th career win. The Alabama game is the second of three games in a row against SEC West opponents. Three of UT's next four games are on the road with trips to Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky scheduled and a home game against Mississippi slipped in as the second game of the stretch. UT has won its last two games decided by five points or less after starting the season 0-2 in games decided by five points or less. The Vols have only had four games decided by less than five points. McFadgon has bounced back from single-digit scoring games to score at least 15 points in his next game. Watson is averaging 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists his last two games.
Vanderbilt posted a 61-39 win over visiting Georgia, Wednesday. The Commodores limited the Bulldogs to 28.3 percent shooting from the field. Matt Freije and Dawid Przybyszewski led all scorers with 13 points apiece. Julian Terrell added 10 points. The 39 points allowed by VU were the fewest to a SEC opponent since the Commodores defeated Mississippi, 80-39, on Feb. 27, 1993. VU shot a season-best 95 percent from the free throw line (19-of-20) against Georgia. The victory over Georgia marked VU Head Coach Kevin Stallings' 200th career win. Przybyszewski is averaging 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field (11-of-22) and 53.3 percent from behind the arc (8-of-15) during VU's last three games. The Commodore bench has outscored the opponents' reserves in 18 of 20 games this season. Saturday's game at South Carolina marks the first of three VU road games in 11 days. Matt Freije scored a team-high 18 points while Mario Moore added 16 and Dawid Przybyszewski scored 11 in an 81-71 loss at Florida on last Saturday. Vanderbilt has held its opponent to 60 or fewer points 11 times this season.