SEC basketball notebook

The SEC ranks first in the nation in Non-Conference RPI, according to the latest poll by CollegeRPI.com, as of February 10. The Southeastern Conference leads the nation with seven teams ranked in the Sagarin Rankings Top 40. SEC teams also have 10 of the 50 toughest schedules in the country, according to CollegeRPI.com.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Alabama has a week to re-group after dropping two road games at No. 1 Florida and at Arkansas this past week. The Tide returns to play at home on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT to host Auburn. That game is available on pay-per-view. It's a scheduling rarity for both the Tide and the Tigers as neither has a mid-week game heading into this cross-state rivals game. Erwin Dudley had a strong individual week this past week, scoring a career-high 29 points at Arkansas and following it with 15 points and 9 rebounds at Florida on Saturday. Dudley has led the SEC all season in rebounding (for the third straight year). All-SEC candidate Mo Williams continues to lead the Tide in scoring at 15.1 points a game and in assists with 4.1 assists a game. Dudley is at 14.5 points and 10.0 rebounds a game after 20 games to average the double-double. The Florida game marked the fifth ranked team Alabama has played this season (it's 3-2 vs. the Top 25, with wins against Oklahoma, Xavier and Mississippi State). Tide senior Erwin Dudley made the Wooden Top 30 midseason list in his bid for National Player of the Year honors.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

When Jonathon Modica recorded his back-to-back 26-point games against Florida and Alabama, he became the first Arkansas freshman to post consecutive 25-point contests since Todd Day in 1989. Over the last five games, senior forward Larry Satchell is shooting 64.7 percent from the field (11-17). Sophomore forward Michael Jones is averaging 10.6 points over the last five games. He's already scored more points (121) than he did all of last year (115), and he's done so with one less field goal this year (41) than last season (42). He has 25 three-pointers this year after making 10 last season. Arkansas' schedule is rated the second-toughest in the nation by CBSSportsline.com and CollegeRPI.com. With the win over No. 22 Alabama, Arkansas recorded its only win of the year in seven tries over a ranked opponent. Freshman Jonathon Modica led Arkansas with 26 points against the Crimson Tide, his second straight 26-point outing. His point totals are the highest for an Arkansas freshman since Joe Johnson had 30 points against Mississippi State on Jan. 22, 2000.

AUBURN TIGERS

The last three games played between the two teams in Tuscaloosa have been decided by a combined 10 points (3.3 ppg) with the Tide winning all three. The Tigers have lost three straight games to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, last winning 73-58 in its 1999 SEC Championship season. Auburn is going for its first season sweep of Alabama since winning three-straight vs. the Tide in 1999. Neither team has swept a season series since. Auburn junior center Kyle Davis broke the Auburn career blocked shots record against Ole Miss Feb. 5 and now has 246 career blocks, five ahead of Mamadou N'diaye's 241 from 1996-2000. Kyle Davis needs one more block to break his single-season record of 84 blocks set in 2000-01 and tied this year. He owns the top three single-season blocked shot records in Auburn history. Kyle Davis is currently ninth on the SEC's all-time blocked shots list with 246. Senior Marquis Daniels is only three steals shy of becoming Auburn's all-time steals leader.

FLORIDA GATORS

The Gators moved to a perfect 12-0 at home with an impressive 75-56 victory over No. 20 Alabama. Matt Bonner led the way with 21 points, his third 20+ point game of the season and 12th of his career. Bonner hit 8-of-14 from the floor while connecting on 3-of-6 three point attempts. Anthony Roberson added 16 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor, while drilling 4-of-6 on threes. In addition, Roberson posted five assists with only one turnover. For the game, the Gators hit 47.4 percent from the floor, including 9-of-19 from beyond the arc. They were a perfect 14-of-14 from the line while dishing out 19 assists to only eight turnovers. It was their 12th straight home win against SEC West competition, a streak they look to extend on Wednesday against Ole Miss. The Gators fell in Lexington for the fifth straight year, losing to Kentucky 70-55 on last Tuesday night. It snapped a school record-tying 14-game winning streak for the Gators. Florida went 62 days in between losses. Anthony Roberson scored a team-high 18 points, hitting 6-of-12 shots from the floor.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Georgia began the second half of its SEC schedule with an identical first-half record (5-3) as last season. The Bulldogs played their first meeting with Kentucky on Tuesday, losing by 20 points in Lexington. Not since 1978 had these two schools gone this deep into the season before facing each other. Last season Georgia swept the regular-season series against UK for just the third time ever and the first time since 1987. The 33 points scored by Tennessee's Ron Slay last Saturday were the most by a Georgia opponent since LSU's Ronnie Henderson tallied 33 in February of 1995. Georgia's dominance of the glass in the UT game -- opposite of Georgia's trend in the SEC schedule -- was negated by the Vols' 56 percent field-goal shooting. Chris Daniels just missed a triple-double in the UT game, getting 16 points, 12 rebounds and a career high-matching eight assists. Daniels has scored 31 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in Georgia's past two games. The Bulldogs rank No. 1 nationally in strength-of-schedule ratings in both the RPI and Sagarin listings. The 2001 team was also No. 1 in strength of schedule at season's end. Georgia is 6-0 in games where Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams scored 20 or more points each in the same game.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Kentucky returned to Rupp Arena for an Eastern Division showdown with third-place Georgia on Tuesday. It marked the Wildcats' ninth game against a ranked opponent this season. UK is now 8-1 against ranked teams, including a 3-0 mark against top-10 teams. The Wildcats own the nation's third-longest win streak at 12 games, and haven't been defeated since Dec. 28 at Louisville. Kentucky has been dominating in SEC play, owning the league's best defense, allowing just 57.6 ppg, and outscoring opponents 40.2 to 23.4 in the first 20 minutes over the past five games. Last season, the Bulldogs swept the Wildcats for the first time since 1987. With four weeks remaining in the regular season, Kentucky will play just three of its last eight games away from Lexington. After home games this week against the Bulldogs and LSU, UK travels to Fayetteville where it has won just twice in six tries. The Wildcats close on the road at Georgia and Florida in two of its final three games. The Cats complete the week at home against LSU. Kentucky has won 11 of the last 12 games in the series and seven straight at home against the Tigers.

LSU TIGERS

LSU posted their best road defensive effort of the season on Saturday, but Nathan Watson hit a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left to give Auburn a 56-54 win. The Tigers, now 13-8 and 2-7 in the SEC, got 17 points and seven rebounds from Ronald Dupree to lead LSU as the only player in double figures. LSU shot a respectable 23-of-48 from the field (48 percent), but just 4-of-17 from behind the arc. LSU was just 4-of-10 at the free throw line and 3-of-8 in the second half. Dupree leads the league with four double-doubles in league play is tied with Alabama's Erwin Dudley with six in all games. The Tigers open a stretch of three home games in the next four. Vanderbilt leads the all-time series with LSU, 52-44, while the Tigers hold the 26-18 edge in Baton Rouge, La. The Commodores have won four of the past five games versus LSU at the Maravich Assembly Center, dating back to the 1992-93 season. Torris Bright is third all-time in minutes played at LSU and is on pace to become just the second player in LSU history to play over 4,000 minutes.

OLE MISS REBELS

The Rebels continue play against ranked teams this week with trips to Florida and Mississippi State. Ole Miss started "ranked week" with a loss to No. 6/No. 7 Kentucky Feb. 8. The Rebels are 2-2 against ranked opponents this year. Florida leads the all-time series with Ole Miss 50-41. The Rebels have won the last two meetings versus the Gators. The Ole Miss-Florida match-up will feature the SEC's 2nd and 3rd winningest programs since 1996-97. The Gators have 143 overall wins (63 SEC wins), while the Rebels have 140 overall wins (59 SEC victories) since 1996-97. Mississippi State leads the all-time series by a 124-101 count, and has won the last two encounters. Both Ole Miss games this week will be televised. The Rebels have a 4-3 record in television contests this season. Senior Shaun Holtz came off the bench to record season highs for points (8), FTs (5) and assists (2) vs. Kentucky. Junior Aaron Harper needs 39 points to reach 1,000 for his career. He has 961 entering play this week. Harper was ranked 6th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage in the latest NCAA stats Feb. 3.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Winners of five of their last six games, the Bulldogs conclude their current three-game homestand by entertaining the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday after a midweek break from competition. With recent wins over Vanderbilt (82-60) and Arkansas (84-54), MSU has an average scoring margin of 26.0 points per game during the team's current homestand. After last week's impressive defensive efforts, MSU has now claimed the league's top spots for both scoring margin (+12.8) and field-goal percentage defense (38.8%) in all games. Since opening up conference play 0-3, the Bulldogs have since held their last six opponents (5-1 record) to an average of only 58.3 points per contest on just 37.3 percent collective field-goal shooting. MSU has outrebounded each of its last four opponents by double figures. The Bulldogs own an 82-23 advantage in games played in Starkville through the years. MSU owns a 21-6 all-time lead over UM in games contested at Humphrey Coliseum. The average scoring margin of the last 11 meetings between these two in-state rivals has been only 5.6 points per contest. After this week's action, four of MSU's last six league games will come away from home.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

USC defeated Vandy on Saturday for its first road win this season. The Gamecocks shot a season high 59.6 percent and outrebounded their opponent for the first time since playing The Citadel. The Gamecocks made a season high 31 field goals. Chris Warren, starting his first game since The Citadel because of his foot injury, played exceptional with 11 points, five assists and three steals. USC will take a break from SEC action on Wednesday, Feb. 12 when they host Clemson at The Carolina Center. USC is 6-4 in non-conference play this year, posting a perfect 6-0 record at home. USC crushed the Tigers, 81-59, last year, leading the Tigers by 21 at halftime. It was the second straight win for USC over Clemson. The victory margin was the largest for a USC team against Clemson since 1971 and the largest in Littlejohn Coliseum since it opened in 1969. South Carolina leads the series 84-68. In Columbia, USC has won 51 to Clemson's 24. Chuck Eidson is now No. 3 on the SEC career steals list, passing Kareem Reid (251, Arkansas, 1996-99) with two steals at Vanderbilt. USC has used 13 different line-ups in 19 games this season.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Tennessee has a four-game winning streak, including a three-game SEC win streak, heading into Wednesday's game at Arkansas. UT's four-game winning streak is its longest since last season. The Vols are looking for their first win in Bud Walton Arena. Tennessee is 0-4 all-time in the arena. Arkansas will be UT's first SEC opponent in its last four conference games that is not coming off a bye before playing the Vols (South Carolina, Auburn and Georgia all had a bye in the SEC schedule before playing the Vols). Tennessee is 2-0 against the SEC West with both wins coming on the road (at Ole Miss and at Auburn). The Vols have won their five conference games by 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 points. UT is 12-1 when holding opponents under 70 points. The Vols are 11-4 when leading at halftime. Ron Slay owns three of the top seven scoring games in the SEC with 38 points vs. New Mexico (1/4/03), 33 against Georgia (2/8/03) and 31 against Gardner-Webb (11/22/02). Tennessee is now 1-4 against ranked teams this season after its win over Georgia on Saturday.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Vanderbilt dropped its second straight game as the Commodores lost to South Carolina, 84-72, Saturday night at Memorial Gym. The Gamecocks have now defeated Vanderbilt in five of the last six games in Nashville. Vanderbilt was led by sophomore forward Brian Thornton, who had team high with 22 points and six rebounds. It was the first time Thornton had led Vanderbilt in scoring since posting a career-high 23 points Jan. 8 at Auburn. It also snapped a string of five games in which Matt Freije had been the team's leading scorer. Freije's 13 points against South Carolina was good enough to move him up to second in SEC play with 18.7 points per game. Freije has made 28-of-31 (.903) free throws in league action and 70-of-88 (.795) overall. Sophomore Corey Smith, who had missed three games after breaking his left hand, scored eight points in 12 minutes versus South Carolina. Vanderbilt will hit the road for the next two games at LSU and at Georgia. The Commodores lead the all-time series with LSU, 52-44, while the Tigers hold the 26-18 edge in Baton Rouge, La. The Commodores are 4-1 in the past five games versus LSU at the Maravich Assembly Center, dating back to the 1992-93 season.

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