SEC Insider

EAST DIVISION
FLORIDA

The Gators lost for a second time in their last three games and for the second time this season in Gainesville on Saturday when Louisville handed Florida a 74-70 home loss.

"I think that certainly the Louisville game, we didn't make great decisions," said Gators coach Billy Donavon. "Sometimes those plays get magnified in the game. Unfortunately for David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh the perception is that everyone thinks they can't make a shot. The little breakdowns we had added up and when you play against good teams you get exploited."

Florida (5-2) is off for most of this week before playing host to Georgia Southern on Sunday.

"We just started final exams this week, so we will have to mix and match our practices with our guys' schedules," Donavon said. "We will do the best we can to move forward for our game on Sunday."

GEORGIA
A pair of wins last week has gotten the Bulldogs back to the .500 mark for the season. Levi Stukes scored 15 points, including a pair of free throws with 1:09 to play, to lift Georgia to a come-from-behind 67-62 win over Gardner-Webb on Wednesday night. Then on Saturday, the Bulldogs squeezed out a 76-74 win against Oregon State in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta.

"That game (Oregon State) represented the most aggressive effort so far this season," said Georgia coach Dennis Felton. "It was nice to have our young players rewarded for that aggressive effort. I am hopeful that it will be more than just a win, that it will be something we can grow some confidence of off. I think our players understand that Oregon State was a high quality opponent."

The Bulldogs (3-3) look to make it three in a row when they play host to Wofford on Sunday.

"We are on a little two-game win streak. I am pleased with the progress of our team," Felton said. "We have managed to get better every time out. Beating a team the caliber of Oregon State is exciting. I am very pleased with that."

KENTUCKY
The Wildcats bounced back from a loss at North Carolina with a pair of impressive wins last week. Kentucky (6-1) blasted Morehead State, 71-40, on Wednesday and then defeated Indiana, 73-58 in Louisville, on Saturday.

Kentucky plays at Louisville on Saturday in a game being televised at 11 a.m. on ESPN.

"(Louisville) is always a big game and a very big rivalry, one of the biggest in college basketball," said Wildcats coach Tubby Smith. "I know that they will be ready to play."

The Wildcats are in finals week and will have a six-day break before playing the Cardinals.

"It's always an adjustment, because you have classes during the week," Smith aid. "We have four freshman and we are concerned because this is there first time going through this."

SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks haven't played in more than a week but will be back on the court tonight when they host South Florida.

"We have been off for exams, and we have spent a lot of our time in the classroom rather than on the basketball court," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "We did not play well in our last outing (a 63-62 overtime loss against Clemson). We spent a lot of time on execution and trying to get our team better on both sides of the court. I think our team has worked hard this week, and I am excited about our game tomorrow night.

"We need to play a good team, and we are playing a good team in South Florida. Anytime you play a team with a good inside game and a good outside game that can cause problems."

TENNESSEE
The Volunteers bounced back from a shocking loss against Chattanooga with a 71-69 win at home against Xavier on Saturday. Tennessee still plays four games before Christmas, the first being a home matchup against Alabama State tonight.

"Alabama State is a tournament team from last year, and this is a big week for us." said associate head coach Chris Ferguson.

In the loss to Chattanooga, Brandon Crump became the 37th player in Tennessee history to score 1,000 career points.

The Vols will play seven of their next eight games at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. The only road game during that stretch is a trip to New Mexico on Dec. 18.

VANDERBILT
The Commodores' only game last week resulted in an 88-72 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday.

Vanderbilt (4-4) -- off for finals this week -- begins a six-game homestand with its game against TCU on Saturday.

"We are a team that has struggled. We have had some difficult games the past weeks and we haven't played well," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We have finals this week and we are hopeful we can get in a lot of practice time.

"Some of our veterans are not playing up to there capabilities and we need to get them going if we are going to be the team we need to be."

WEST DIVISION
ALABAMA

Since its loss to Washington in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 27, Alabama (8-1) has reeled off four wins in a row. The Tide's most recent victory was a 75-71 decision against Temple on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

"I don't know if it (finals week) did that much. I think that everyone is a little bit different," said Tide coach Mark Gottfried. "If you are student that is on top of things and prepared than it should be easy. If you are scrambling here and there, it will be difficult. "

Alabama is back in action Saturday at home against Tennessee State.

"We have got final exams, so I hope our guys will be focused in," Gottfried said. "We just need to keep trying to improve and get better, and we will do that this week."

ARKANSAS
The Razorbacks picked up perhaps their biggest nonconference road win in the Stan Heath era last Tuesday, winning at Missouri, 62-52. Now 6-1 on the season, Arkansas begins a seven-game home stretch Thursday against Tennessee State.

"We have been playing pretty good basketball, especially on the defensive end," Heath said. "We are real pleased with where we are right now, and we are going to work hard and try to get better for conference.

"We have had to make some adjustments here and there (with finals). We have the next few days to get ready for our opponent on Thursday. Sometimes you are just mentally drained and you don't have the same energy level. For a coach, I always look to find a balance and find a game that will get us back on track and at the same time try not to schedule over your head."

AUBURN
After its 76-61 win at the College of Charleston on Tuesday, Auburn (6-3) finished the week with a 90-87 loss at home against UNLV on Sunday as the Runnin'Rebels were making their first appearance in Auburn since 1987.

The Tigers are off all week for final exams and will be back in action Dec. 20 when they face Delaware in the first round of the San Juan Shootout.

"We have got a week here to try to get finals wrapped up," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "We have to go down there to play three in a row in San Juan. That is always a concern for us because we only play seven guys."

LSU
After an almost two-week layoff, LSU (4-1) returned to the court Saturday and came away with an 83-74 win against Northwestern State. The victory was the Tigers' 51st consecutive against Louisiana schools at home.

After playing host to McNeese State on Monday, LSU closes the week against Southern Miss on Saturday in a game being played in Biloxi, Miss. The game against the Golden Eagles will start off a five-game road trip for the Tigers, who also visit Houston and Utah and play Florida State in New Orleans before SEC play begins.

MISSISSIPPI STATE
Now 7-2 this season heading into Monday's game at New Orleans, the Bulldogs lone losses have come against Top 25 teams Syracuse and Arizona.

After facing New Orleans, Mississippi State will close the week at Xavier on Saturday.

"It's never easy on the road," said Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury. "New Orleans hasn't played in about 13 days, and I know they are very talented. We have been on the road, but this will be our first at a neutral site."

Coming off last year's perfect 12-0 road record, State's game against UNO will mark the team's first true road game of the 2004-05 campaign after five neutral-site contests already this season.

OLE MISS
After a pair of last-minute losses to Arkansas State (70-68) and Florida State (69-64), Ole Miss bounced back with its 65-53 win at Memphis on Saturday.

"It was a great win against Memphis," said Rebels coach Rod Barnes "It was a wonderful win for us. We have to bounce back, and I am concerned about not having a let down."

Ole Miss (3-4) hosted Nicholls State on Monday to start a three-game week. The Rebels also have home games this week against Troy on Wednesday and against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.


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