SEC Basketball Insider: East

Get the latest on Southeastern Conference Basketball. Can the Cats handle there final out-of-conference opponent in Kansas? Can Arkansas steal a game in the Swamp? Can anybody handle Mississippi State? Find out in the latest edition of SEC Insider, Basketball style


The Gators (8-3) -- along with LSU -- did not open SEC play like the rest of the conference earlier this week. Instead, Florida opens its league slate Saturday when it plays host to Arkansas.

"We certainly have a tremendous challenge playing Arkansas," said Florida coach Billy Donavan. "They are off to a great start. I thought last year they had great perimeter players. They are a very well rounded and good basketball team."

Florida's last outing was an 82-69 loss at Florida State on Jan. 2. The Gators are 6-2 at home this season heading into their contest with the Hogs.

The Bulldogs (6-5, 0-1) suffered a 72-65 home loss against Tennessee on Wednesday in their SEC opener and will look to bounce back Saturday with a trip to South Carolina.

"I expect it to be a real stiff challenge for our team," said Georgia coach Dennis Felton. "They are very well coached and very athletic. They have some experience but the biggest thing is they play really hard. We are working on our ability to play consistently hard, we have to play hard to have a chance. South Carolina doesn't give you a chance to out effort them very often."

Kelenna Azubuike made four 3-pointers and finished with 21 points as No. 8 Kentucky (10-1, 1-0) held on for a 79-75 win over South Carolina on Wednesday night.

Chuck Hayes added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Kentucky (10-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), which won its league opener for the 17th time in 18 years. The only loss during that stretch came in 2002 to Mississippi State.

Kentucky will play its final nonconference game of the regular season Sunday, when the Wildcats host No. 2 Kansas.

"We were able to get by a good South Carolina team. Kansas is a team that is undefeated and playing well," said Wildcats coach Tubby Smith. "Bill Self teams are always well-coached and well-disciplined and usually physical. They have some talent throughout their whole roster."

South Carolina (8-4, 0-1) has lost three games to ranked teams this season, having dropped four-point road decisions at Kansas, No. 16 Pittsburgh and most recently Kentucky, where the Gamecocks lost, 79-75, on Wednesday.

South Carolina is now 1-18 against Kentucky in Lexington, winning only in 1997. But four of the last five games between the teams at Rupp Arena have been decided by seven points or less.

The Gamecocks will host Georgia on Saturday.

"As far as Georgia is concerned, I haven't gotten into the game as much as I would like to," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "We are still coming off the Kentucky game. What I do know about Georgia is how much better they were the second time we played them last year. I watched them in the SEC Tournament, and the intensity they brought to the court was impressive. They have a young team, but young teams can be hard to play against because they aren't afraid. I am just trying to work on correcting the mistakes on our team. The strength of the Georgia team is the guards."

C.J. Watson scored 17 points despite foul trouble, helping Tennessee hold off Georgia 72-65 Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference.

The Volunteers (8-5, 1-0 SEC) scored 11 straight points after Georgia closed to 60-58 on Steve Newman's basket with 4:44 remaining. Watson accounted for six of those points on free throws. He finished 9-of-10 at the line, leading four Tennessee players in double figures.

The Vols host Vanderbilt on Saturday in their SEC home opener.

"This is a big game for us. Vanderbilt is playing extremely well, and shooting well from the 3-point line," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "Looking forward to it, and you can't sit back and relax, you have to get ready for your next contest."

The Commodores got off to a good start in SEC play with an impressive, 70-56 win against Alabama in Nashville on Wednesday.

"We have been playing good basketball. We felt like for about 33 or 34 minutes we played really good basketball against Alabama," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We have been pleased with how we have been playing, and we feel we have made progress this last month."

Vandy (10-4, 1-0) has now won six in a row and visits Tennessee on Saturday.

"I hope we have a lot of confidence, I think the confidence is coming from the fact that our team is beginning to trust itself and each other," Stallings said. "I think when that happens you play at a higher level. We obviously still have breakdowns, but if you get five guys playing together and supporting each other, it really elevates the level of confidence for the team."

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