Before Wednesday, only Arkansas -- with a six-point win at Alabama on Jan. 27 -- had earned a conference victory away from its home court among SEC West teams. But the Crimson Tide squeaked past LSU 73-70 and Auburn held off South Carolina 80-75, improving the SEC West's conference road mark to a still-putrid 3-20.
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said he hoped the Crimson Tide's intensity will now surface every time it laces up away from Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.
"I'd like to think we (played with urgency) every night," Gottfried said. "But they understand the need to start (playing hard and consistent) and (Wednesday) night was a start."
For Jeff Lebo's Auburn Tigers, a five-point victory at South Carolina came as the result of learning lessons from previous close-losses. Auburn stuck with LSU in Baton Rouge before losing by two and led Mississippi State in Starkville before falling by 11.
The Tigers staved off a frantic South Carolina rally, though, to even their conference record at 4-4, good enough for first place in the West.
"It's big for our confidence," Lebo said. "I thought we showed a lot of poise throughout the game. We got down, but we didn't panic. That was nice to see."
Both coaches said Thursday they realized the magnitude of any road win, considering how rare they've been for division foes.
Alabama started rough on the road. But that's no different from any other team in the West.
"We were like the Bad News Bears but so was everybody else," Gottfried said "We just have to stay alive and hang in there."
Just like every other SEC West team.
LSU Struggles Late, Again
With Tack Minor now dismissed from the team and Garrett Temple still playing out of position, LSU coach John Brady has limited options at point guard.
The Tigers have found themselves in close contests, but they have floundered in late-game situations. Whether it's a poor shot or a turnover, something seems to go wrong in the final few minutes.
The problem arose again Wednesday night in the Tigers' home loss to Alabama, which dropped LSU to 2-5 in SEC play. Alabama is now added to a list of close losses for LSU that includes Wichita State, Texas and Georgia.
"We need to figure out how to win those kinds of games," Brady said. "We get games to the end and just haven't made plays to win. We turned it over, we don't execute, we don't take the right shots."
* Tennessee got help from a couple of Smiths in downing Georgia on Wednesday night. With preseason All-America guard Chris Lofton still hurt, junior JaJuan Smith scored 22 points and freshman Ramar Smith added a career-high 21.
Lofton suited up Wednesday night, available to shoot free throws in the event of an emergency, but Pearl said he didn't know about his status for Saturday.
"I don't expect him to play at Florida," Pearl said.
* Pearl and Georgia coach Dennis Felton recalled their mid-major roots Thursday. Pearl (formerly of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Felton (formerly of Western Kentucky) fondly remembered their days at their previous stops.
"Mid-majors don't like the term anymore, but I was proud of the term," Pearl said. "We were trying to get to the point to be one of the better mid-majors in the country, and we were proud of that."
* Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had a simple explanation as to why his Commodores lost after holding an 11-point halftime lead Wednesday at Florida.
"They just turned it up to a level we couldn't respond to," Stallings said.
SEC Western Wins Away From Home
Alabama and Auburn, with Wednesday night victories, tripled the amount of road wins this season for the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference
The only three road wins for the SEC West
Date Road Victor Opponent Score
Jan. 27 Arkansas Alabama 64-53
Jan. 31 Auburn South Carolina 80-75
Jan. 31 Alabama LSU 73-70
Two West Road Wins In One Night
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