SEC Basketball Insider: West

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 Crimson Tide (11-3, 0-1) was handed a 70-56 setback at Vanderbilt in its SEC opener on Wednesday and will look to bounce back Saturday when LSU visits Tuscaloosa.

"We've got to regroup from last night. We didn't play very well," said Alabama coach Mike Gottfreid. "First thing that jumps out at you with LSU is trying to figure out a way to guard Brandon Bass.

"I think they (Vanderbilt) shot the ball extremely well, first of all. When they shoot the ball like that, they made some tough shots. We didn't defend them as well as we thought we could either. We have to look at ourselves a little bit and get ready to play on Saturday."

Eric Ferguson scored 14 points and Ronnie Brewer added 13 as Arkansas rolled past Ole Miss, 69-46, in the SEC opener for both teams on Wednesday.

The Razorbacks (13-1) are amid their best start since their glory years of the early 1990s, but only two victories - over Missouri and Mississippi -- have come against teams from major conferences.

Arkansas will now face its biggest road test to date with a trip to Florida on Saturday in a game being televised at 11 a.m. on Jefferson Pilot Sports.

"We have good momentum and we are starting to build some confidence," said Razorbacks coach Stan Heath. "We know it is going to be a tough game but we are up to the challenge. We realize that Matt Walsh is doubtful for the game, that is a loss for Florida obviously, but we know that Roberson and Lee are big players that can step up for them.

"Going to Florida is never an easy game."

The Tigers have not beaten Mississippi State since pulling out a 60-56 win in January of 2001. But Wednesday's 90-53 loss took the frustration to a new level against the Bulldogs.

"It was a tough game for us, with our lack of talent and size," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "Missed shots affected us on the defensive side, and it wore on us and in the second half it snowballed."

Lebo said his team's disadvantage inside the paint is a big reason for the struggles so far.

"It's tough to be creative. For us the biggest thing is that we have to make shots. If we make shots, that's the only way we have a chance. We have to do a better job at gang-rebounding and we got to get some luck. It's a challenge and we have been able to hide it at times, but when you get into league play against teams who throw three or four big men at you it wears on you."

The Tigers (6-4) suffered a 69-55 loss at Utah on Monday and did not get in a midweek SEC game like most of the league. LSU will instead open up its conference schedule Saturday with a visit to Alabama.

"We have been playing away, and we have had a two-week break for exams," said LSU associate head coach Butch Pierre. "We are trying to create an identity for ourselves. This team has to grow up, and grow up in hurry going to Alabama this weekend."

Lawrence Roberts had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 18 Mississippi State beat Auburn 90-53 on Wednesday night in the teams' Southeastern Conference opener.

Winsome Frazier and Jamall Edmonson each had 12 points for the Bulldogs (13-2), the defending regular-season champions who shot 50 percent from the field to win their eighth straight over Auburn.

Mississippi State used a 21-6 run early in the second half to break the game open. Frazier had two 3-pointers and Ontario Harper had six points during the spurt, which gave the Bulldogs a 58-33 lead with 12:12 remaining.

It was the third straight game Roberts had double-figures in both points and rebounds, and the reigning SEC player of the year was one rebound shy of that by halftime.

The Bulldogs (13-2) visit rival Ole Miss on Saturday.

"It's never easy when you go on the road, particularly to Ole Miss," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. "Coach Barnes has done a great job with this team, getting them to play hard. He has a lot of balance on this team, and we understand how difficult this game to going to be playing up there."

The Rebels (9-5, 0-1) fell hard at Arkansas, 69-46, on Wednesday in the SEC opener for both schools. But things don't get much easier when the Rebels play host to defending Western Division champ Mississippi State on Saturday.

"We are a team that just got off a tough loss against Arkansas. We have to bounce back," said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes. "We have our arch rival coming to our place and they are very talented and playing very well. We will be prepared for the challenge."

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