SEC Insider


Despite leading by as many as nine points in the second half, Florida (14-6, 6-3) couldn't hold off a Kentucky rally, falling to the Wildcats, 69-66, on Tuesday.

Now the Gators look to bounce back when they travel to Tennessee on Saturday.

"We are back on the road again against a team in Tennessee that has caused us a lot of trouble in the past," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "They played very well down here earlier in the season. We are both coming off tough losses so both teams should come out, play well and compete hard."

Even with the loss to Kentucky, Florida remains one of only three teams in the SEC -- along with the Wildcats and Alabama -- to own at least a .500 record on the road.

The Gators are now 2-2 in SEC road games this season.

The Bulldogs (7-13, 1-9) kept things close for almost a half before falling to Arkansas, 62-47, on Wednesday.

Georgia has now lost five straight and is 0-6 in road games this season.

Things don't get any easier for Dennis Felton's young team, though, as a trip to Kentucky on Saturday is up next.

"We are excited about having another opportunity to play Kentucky after coming up short against them at our place," Felton said. "You always get excited to play Kentucky. They are routinely the best team in this conference. Rupp Arena is always very fun to play in because of the incredible atmosphere they have.

"They have a very good team again this year and they are playing very well. We are looking forward to the game."

The Wildcats still have Florida's number. Barely.

Kelenna Azubuike scored 18 points and No. 5 Kentucky rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to beat the Gators, 69-66, on Tuesday night, giving the Wildcats eight wins in a row against their SEC Eastern Division rivals.

Kentucky (18-2, 9-0) -- which has now won 10 of its last 11 overall against Florida -- holds a three-game lead in the Eastern Division.

The Wildcats look for their ninth consecutive win Saturday when they play host to Georgia at 2 p.m. on Jefferson Pilot Sports.

"Watching Georgia play against Arkansas last night, it was tough on them without Levi Stukes, especially on the road at a place like Arkansas," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith. "But they stuck with the game plan and played hard. I was impressed with their play. It's tough to lose your leading scorer and go on the road to a place like that.

"We are getting better with each game and each practice. Our young guys are getting better and better. It will be interesting to see how we play on Saturday."

The Gamecocks (13-7, 5-4) picked up their first road win of the season with a 60-53 victory at Georgia last Saturday. And with no midweek game, South Carolina has plenty of time to get ready for this Saturday's home game against Auburn.

"We are facing an Auburn team that on any given night can beat anybody in our league," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "They are very well coached. There is no new, young coach I respect more and is a better coach than Jeff Lebo. He's done great things with Auburn already. He has a lot of friends here at South Carolina since he spent eight years of his life here. Auburn doesn't have a lot of size, but they have skills. When that skill is shooting, which is the case for Auburn, they are very dangerous."

The Volunteers (11-12, 4-6) couldn't get it done at home against Alabama on Wednesday, falling to the Tide, 72-54. But one team Tennessee did handle earlier this year was Florida and now the Vols get a chance for the sweep when the Gators visit Knoxville on Saturday.

"We are sure Florida is going to come in here very fired up after we beat them in their place earlier in the season," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "We are going to have our hands full, that is for sure. We are just trying to find some consistency. Our effort is consistent, but I want more consistency in execution."

With Wednesday's loss, Tennessee fell under .500 for the first time this season and dropped to fifth place in the SEC Eastern Division standings.

The Commodores took a breather from SEC play earlier this week but still got in some gametime, posting an easy 90-54 win against Texas Pan-American on Monday.

"We've had most of the week off," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "It's been nice to come back home and get some good wins."

Vanderbilt (14-9, 4-5) heads back on the road Saturday, though, where it is only 1-4 this season. And the opponent will be Mississippi State, a team boasting a 9-0 record at home.

"Mississippi State is a very imposing team. Lawrence Roberts is having another MVP-type season," Stallings said. "They have some players who compliment him very well. It's a tough challenge to go down to Starkville, but it's something we have to embrace."


Using a dominating performance on the boards, Alabama made sure it would not be dominated again on the road.

Kennedy Winston scored 18 points and No. 17 Alabama outrebounded Tennessee by 24 in a 72-54 victory on Wednesday night in Knoxville.

Chuck Davis added 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds and Jermareo Davidson added 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Crimson Tide bounced back from last Saturday's 84-54 loss at Florida.

Alabama (18-4, 7-2) returns home Saturday to host Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide is 10-0 at home this season.

"Ole Miss has had the week off, so they will be fresh and well rested," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfreid. "Our guys have been on the road a lot lately, so they are excited to be coming back home."

A lot has been said lately about Georgia and whether or not the Bulldogs play a dirty brand of basketball. Well after seeing the 'Dogs up close, Arkansas coach Stan Heath is convinced the talk is nonsense.

"I've watched a lot of tape since Monday on Georgia. Then we played them last night," said Heath. "In no way does Dennis Felton run a team that plays dirty. They play hard, but the dirty play comments earlier in the week were completely out of line."

Dirty or not, Arkansas (16-7, 4-6) used 17 points from freshman Darian Townes and another 15 from Ronnie Brewer to coast past the Bulldogs, 62-47, on Wednesday. Now the Razorbacks get ready for a rematch with LSU, which edged the Hogs 66-63 in overtime earlier this season.

"We are going to have to do a much better job rebounding than we did last time we played them," Heath said. "They are coming off a big win versus Auburn and we have to protect our home court. Our fans are going to be fired up."

The Tigers (11-11, 2-7) have been able to pull out a couple of wins at home this season in the SEC. Playing on the road is where Auburn hasn't come close.

Allowing LSU to shoot 56.9 percent from the field, Auburn had little chance from the start in a 90-69 loss to the Bayou Bengals on Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

Now 0-4 away from home in the SEC, Auburn guns for its first road win again when it visits South Carolina on Saturday.

"South Carolina poses a lot of problems for a lot of people, especially when they play at home," said Tigers coach Jeff Lebo. "They are very good defensively. We will have to try to hold our own on the glass. They are very athletic, quick and physical."

Darrel Mitchell and Tack Minor each scored 17 points as LSU blew out Auburn 90-69 Wednesday night.

The Tigers (13-7, 6-3), built a 17-point lead at halftime as they improved to 11-1 this season in Baton Rouge.

"I was proud of the way our team played versus Auburn after not playing very well against Tennessee last weekend," said LSU coach John Brady. "We are staying true to form. We play well at home and not so well on the road. Now we have a tough game at Arkansas. Their fans will enjoy it I'm sure as they have gotten some big wins here lately. Hopefully the 10-12 fans we have there will enjoy it too and we can get a much needed road win.

"We played well at Georgia and need to again at Arkansas. It should be a great game."

LSU visits Arkansas at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Bulldogs (17-6, 5-4) have had a lot of time to fume about last Saturday's surprising 90-76 loss at Auburn. With no game scheduled during the middle of the week, Mississippi State hopes to vent its frustration against Vanderbilt this Saturday.

"Vanderbilt presents a challenge because of the style they play. They play a way that is very difficult to defend," said Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury. "They shoot the 3-pointers very well. Their No. 5 guy can step out and shoot. He was 6 of 6 from out there the last time we played them (in the 2004 SEC Tournament)."

Now just 1-4 on the road in the SEC, the Bulldogs need to improve their play away from Starkville if they hope to earn a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"We thought we had turned the corner after the Florida game. But then we weren't able to take it on the road with us," Stansbury said. "Your weaknesses are exposed on the road. It's been the case more so this year than any other year in the SEC that I can remember. We've got to protect home court and find a way to get better on the road."

The Rebels (12-11, 3-7) were off during the middle of the week and prepare now for a trip to Alabama on Saturday.

"Alabama is one of the better teams in our league and one of the better teams in the country," said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes. "We've played good at times on the road this year, but for us to have a chance Saturday, we will have to play at our very best on Saturday. We've worked a lot on our free throw shooting this week. We are going to have to be fundamentally sound and play a solid game against Alabama."

Sitting just one game above the .500 mark, the Rebels are fighting to stay alive for even an NIT Tournament berth. And Barnes said the team will decide its own fate in the closing month of the season.

"Let's be honest, we are not going to be a three or four seed in the NCAA Tournament," Barnes said. "We have six games to go in the regular season. It's in the team's hands if we'll have a winning season and go to any sort of postseason tournament."

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