SEC basketball notebook

With only three games to go, both Eastern and Western Division races are still up in the air.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Alabama plays the first of its final two games at home beginning on Sunday when it plays host to the Ole Miss Rebels at 1 p.m. CT in a game televised by CBS. The match-up is a fun one for the city of Jackson, Miss., which will likely have four men start in the game, one, Mo Williams at guard for Alabama, and three for Ole Miss, including Aaron Harper, Justin Reed and David Sanders. The quartet gets together during holidays and summers to play hoops whenever they are home in Jackson. Tide senior guard Terrance Meade remains "questionable" as to whether he'll get to play Sunday. He sprained his left ankle at practice on Feb. 24th and didn't dress for the Mississippi State game as a result of the injury. Erwin Dudley, who had the league's best field goal percentage in the month of February (62.3%), scored 17 points at MSU on Wednesday. That means in his last six games, he's averaging 19.7 points a game. Freshman Kennedy Winston has started five games and is averaging 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds. For the month of February, he ranked 18th in the SEC in scoring, 11th in rebounding and 10th in assists.

OLE MISS REBELS

The Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., Sunday to play Alabama. The Tide leads the all-time series 105-45. The last five seasons, both Ole Miss and Alabama have protected their homecourt well in the series. The Rebels have won the last five games vs. the Crimson Tide in Tad Smith Coliseum by an average of 20.6 points per win. Alabama has won the previous four games vs. Ole Miss in Coleman Coliseum by an average of 18.0 points per victory. Sunday's Ole Miss-Alabama encounter will feature a match-up of coaches who also played at the schools. Ole Miss' Rod Barnes suited up for the Rebels from 1985-88, while Alabama's Mark Gottfried played for the Tide from 1985-87. Junior Justin Reed is in the No. 18 spot on the career scoring chart with 1,176 points and is nearing the No. 17 position that is held by his head coach, Rod Barnes. Barnes scored 1,201 points in his career. Freshman Trey Pearson is averaging 10.0 points, 6.5 boards and 3.5 assists in the last two games. He tied career highs for points (10), field goals (4), three-point field goals (2) and rebounds (8) versus Georgia on February 26.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Arkansas host Mississippi State on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT. Freshman Jonathon Modica continues to lead the team in scoring (12.2 ppg). He had 12 points and six rebounds in Wednesday's victory at Vanderbilt. Freshman point guard Eric Ferguson had a solid outing in the win over the Commodores, leading the team with 14 points and five assists, and claiming a season-high eight rebounds. Another freshman, forward Rashard Sullivan, had a season-high nine rebounds at Vanderbilt. With Wednesday's win at Vanderbilt, Arkansas claimed its first road victory of the season, snapping a 15-game losing streak. The win is Arkansas' first in 17 games this year when scoring less than 70 points. Arkansas plays host to No. 20 Mississippi State, Saturday. The game is Arkansas' ninth matchup against a ranked opponent this year, the most the Razorbacks have ever faced during the regular season (not counting the SEC and NCAA tournaments). The Razorbacks schedule is ranked second-toughest in the nation by CBSSportsline.com and third-toughest by CollegeRPI.com.

AUBURN TIGERS

This is the 148th meeting between the Tigers and Gators with Auburn holding an 86-61 series edge. Florida has won the last three games in the series. The Tigers are 56-18 in Auburn and 20-8 in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers have won three of the last four against Florida in Auburn with the loss coming two years ago 65-63. Fourth-ranked Florida is the highest-ranked visiting team to come into Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum since #1 Kentucky defeated the Tigers 88-73 Feb. 27, 1996. Auburn has a 23-86 record all-time against teams ranked in the nation's top 10, including a 16-26 mark at home. Auburn is 1-1 against teams ranked in the top 10 this season, defeating #9 Alabama while losing at #8 Kentucky Jan. 22. Cliff Ellis has a 6-6 record against Florida. He is 5-6 against the Gators coaching at Auburn and his South Alabama Jaguars downed UF 88-87 in the 1984 NIT first round. His biggest win vs. the Gators came when the #23 Tigers pulled a monumental upset over #10 Florida 78-70 in the 2000 SEC Tournament quarterfinals. It was the Gators' last defeat before losing to Michigan State in the NCAA Championship game.

FLORIDA GATORS

Florida won its 19th consecutive home game on Tuesday night against South Carolina, 96-63, establishing a new school record. It was also Florida's 23rd regular season win, tying the school record for regular season wins set by the 1993-94 and 1999-2000 squads which both went on to the Final Four. Matt Bonner scored in double figures for the fifth straight game and 21st time on the season, leading the way with 18 points. Six Gators scored in double figures on the night, a first this season. The win was the biggest margin of victory for the Gators in SEC play under Billy Donovan, surpassing the 32-point victory over LSU on Jan. 16, 2002. The Gators torched the Gamecocks with 61 second half points on 78.0 percent shooting (21-of-27). It was the highest field goal percentage in a half of any Donovan-coached team and only the third time since his arrival that the Gators shot better than 70 percent in a half. The win was the 11th in conference play for the Gators, one shy of the school record for league wins in the 16-game format.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Jarvis Hayes made six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 32 points Wednesday night as No. 21 Georgia beat Mississippi 89-82. Hayes, who was bothered by a hip flexor in January, scored 23 against Alabama and 26 against South Carolina in his previous two games. Georgia (17-7, 9-4) has won four straight games. Georgia hosts No. 2 Kentucky on Sunday, followed by a visit from No. 4 Florida on Wednesday. Ezra Williams had 21 points for Georgia, while Chris Daniels added 13 and Rashad Wright 11. Wright, second in the SEC in assists, had nine. The Bulldogs shot 57 percent from the field and were 10-for-22 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs are first in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage at 39.2 percent. On last Saturday, Ezra Williams scored eight of his 16 points during a game-turning run at the end of the first half and No. 22 Georgia beat South Carolina 79-66. Jarvis Hayes had 26 points for the Bulldogs, who won improved to 11-0 at home this season. Williams and Hayes did a lot of their damage outside, combining for five 3-pointers. Rashad Wright moved into fifth place on Georgia's career assists list in his last game versus Ole Miss.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

With a bye in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament assured, second-ranked Kentucky visits No. 21 Georgia with a chance to claim a share of the 2003 SEC Eastern Division and regular season titles. The Wildcats, who remain unbeaten in league play with a 13-0 record, have three games remaining over the next seven days, including difficult road tests in Athens against the Dogs and on the road at Florida. The Wildcats and Bulldogs met 19 days ago in Lexington and the Cats won 87-67. Since then, UK has won four more to stretch its win streak to 17 games. UK's win streak leads all Division I teams and matches the longest in Division I basketball this season. Georgia has won 13 straight games in Stegeman Coliseum, including all 11 this season. Kentucky has won eight of its nine road games this season, including all six in SEC play. This is UK's 11th game against a ranked opponent and the Cats are 9-1. The Wildcats' success this season can largely be credited to their defense. In SEC play, Kentucky opponents have averaged 58.8 ppg, the lowest since 1960.

LSU TIGERS

The Tigers set a school record with 16 three-pointers in Wednesday night's 94-63 win over Auburn at the Maravich Assembly Center. LSU hit 10-of-12 three-pointers in the first half in building a 50-26 lead. In the last three first halves at the Assembly Center, LSU has outscored the opposition 143-66. LSU's 16-of-25 percentage equals the fourth best in the SEC in three-point percentage (64.0) minimum 15 treys made. LSU is now 4-2 over the last six games. The Tigers improved to 16-9 and 5-8 in the Southeastern Conference with the victory. Collis Temple and Darrell Mitchell led all scorers with 19 points each, including a total of eight three-pointers. Mitchell made all five of his three-point attempts and had four assists, while Temple was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Tigers return to action on Saturday, March 1, when they travel to Tennessee for a 6 p.m. CST contest. The game will be televised on SEC-TV, FOX Sports in Baton Rouge. Tennessee leads the series 53-38. The Vols are 27-13 versus LSU in Knoxville. UT has won the last eight games in the series.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

The Bulldogs are bidding for their first-ever regular-season series sweep of Arkansas since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1991. MSU handed Arkansas its worst-ever SEC setback by claiming an 84-54 victory in Starkville. Mississippi State will be looking for its first-ever road win over Arkansas since the Hogs joined the SEC. Winless in nine previous visits to Bud Walton Arena, the Bulldogs' average margin of defeat in Fayetteville since Arkansas joined the SEC has been 19.3 points per road outing. Three wins away from becoming the fourth basketball coach in school history to reach the century mark for career coaching victories, Rick Stansbury has been named as a Top-25 national finalist for the Naismith College Basketball Coach of the Year Award. Timmy Bowers is being recognized this week on Jefferson Pilot Sports' telecasts as the SEC Good Works Team Player of the Week. The Bulldogs are bidding to claim their first divisional championship and subsequent No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament since the school's 1995-96 Final Four campaign. State is also looking to earn back-to-back NCAA berths and 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1994-95 and 1995-96 campaigns.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

South Carolina will host Vanderbilt on Saturday, March 1 for a 5:06 p.m. tip-off on SEC-TV. South Carolina has won the last five of six against the Commodores. USC defeated Vanderbilt Feb. 8, 84-72, propelling the Gamecocks onto a four-game winning streak. Carolina was led by Chuck Eidson, who gathered 18 points, while Kerbrell Brown and Carlos Powell both pulled down a team-high six rebounds each. The Gamecocks had season highs at Vanderbilt in points scored (84), field goals made (31), field goal percentage (59.6%) and three point percentage (63.6%). They also held Vandy to an opponent low for the season with 22 rebounds. USC lost at No. 4 Florida, 96-63, on Tuesday. In the loss at Florida, USC saw the Gators score an Odom-high for an opponent with 96 points. It was the most a team had scored against USC since 2000 (UNC Charlotte defeated USC 98-77 Dec. 2, 2000). USC, 11-13 and 4-9 in the SEC, holds the series edge over the Commodores, 16-15. Dave Odom is 4-3 against Vandy with VU Head Coach Kevin Stallings coming to Columbia with a 2-5 record against the Gamecocks.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Tennessee meets the LSU Tigers on Saturday. UT is coming off a 68-80 loss at Kentucky Wednesday night at Rupp Arena. Tennessee shot a season-high 58.7 percent from the field but could not overcome the Wildcats' balanced attack. Ron Slay led all scorers with 22 points while contributing a career-high 14 rebounds. Tennessee has dropped games at South Carolina, to Alabama and at second-ranked Kentucky since upsetting then No. 4 Florida on Feb. 15. During a six-game winning streak from Jan. 29 until Feb. 15, Tennessee's defense allowed just 58.5 points per game. Over the last three games, UT's opponents are averaging 77.7 points per game. Slay is leading the SEC with 21.9 points per game. Freshman point guard C.J. Watson leads the SEC with 5.6 assists per game while also contributing 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Tennessee's 15 wins this season assures the Vols of their 70th winning record in school history. Slay needs 22 points to become just the 14th player in Tennessee history to score 1,500 career points.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Vanderbilt's lost its sixth straight game Wednesday night in Nashville as Arkansas topped the Commodores, 60-50. Matt Freije led all scorers with his 15 points. Freije has been the Commodores' leading scorer in eight of the past 10 games and only once this season has he gone more than one game without being Vanderbilt's leading scorer. Russell Lakey tied his career-high with eight assists against Arkansas. When added to the six assists he posted Saturday against Florida, the 14 combined assists is the best two-game total in Lakey's career. Scott Hundley grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds against Arkansas, eclipsing the eight boards he recorded at Boston College in 2000. Julian Terrell matched a career high with his three blocks against the Hogs. Vanderbilt had eight blocks against Arkansas, which ties for second-best this season behind the nine blocks the Commodores recorded Dec. 15 versus High Point. Next up for Vanderbilt is a road trip to South Carolina. In Columbia, the Gamecocks hold the slim 7-6 advantage between the two teams. Vanderbilt has won two of the past three meetings at South Carolina, including last season's 60-51 Commodore victory.

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