Alabama (14-3 overall, 2-1) – The Crimson Tide had their 8-game winning streak snapped and suffered their first conference loss at the hands of the Auburn Tigers, 59-56. The Tide’s high-flying offense, which had been averaging 82 points a game, was completely stifled as leading scorer Rod Gizzard suffered through a miserable game finishing with just eight points. Bama’s loss moved them into a three-way tie for first place in the SEC West with Arkansas and Mississippi. The tide must regroup quickly with a game at Georgia next on the schedule and a trip to Lexington looming.
Arkansas (10-5 overall, 2-1) – The Razorbacks squandered a 13-point lead in Baton Rouge and an opportunity to seize sole possession of first place in the SEC East. The 75-69 defeat to LSU spoiled a strong effort from guard Brandon Deane who drained 5 three pointers and scored 24 points before fouling out with 2:44 to play. Jannero Pargo, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer, was held to just eight points and the Tigers converted 31 of 38 from the line. Arkansas returns home for match-ups with South Carolina and Mississippi.
Auburn (9-5 overall, 1-2) – The Tigers notched their first conference win with a rousing 59-56 victory over the red hot Alabama Crimson Tide. Marquis Daniel scored 15 points and Brandon Robinson hauled down 11 rebounds but the story was sophomore center Kyle Davis who played through an elbow originally thought to keep him sidelined for four weeks. Davis, one of the nation’s best shot-blockers, came off the bench to spearhead a
Tigers defensive effort that limited Alabama to 30 percent shooting and 56 points. The Tigers will hope to build on their momentum when they travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt.
Florida (14-1 overall, 3-0 ) – The hottest team in the country ran their winning streak to 13, building on the best start in school history with a 95-85 victory at Vanderbilt. Matt Bonner led the way with 28 points and Brett Nelson added 20 as the Gators overcame an off game for Udonis Haslem, who was held to 10. Florida also received contributions from freshman James White and David Lee as the Gators built a 25-point lead early in the second half and weathered a furious Commodores rally to come away with their 10th consecutive SEC victory dating back to last season. Up next for the Florida juggernaut is a meeting with LSU and a showdown in Gainesville against Georgia.
Georgia (14-2 overall, 3-0) – The surprise story of the SEC has unquestionably been the Georgia Bulldogs who followed up their dramatic victory over Kentucky with a 73-70 win against Tennessee on Erza Williams desperation heave at the buzzer, upping their mark to 3-0 in the conference. Williams, who led the way with 22 points, grabbed a loose ball and quickly hoisted up a three point shot as the clock ran out. The shot went in and fans rushed the floors to celebrate the school’s best start since 1923. However, the officials huddled at the scorer’s table for several minutes reviewing the play before calling the basket good. Jim Harrick’s squad, currently in a first place tie with Florida for the SEC East lead, faces a difficult stretch with home against Alabama and Arkansas and trip to Gainseville to face the Gators.
Kentucky (10-4 overall, 1-2) – Since beating Louisville and former coach Rick Pitino, Kentucky has not been the same team. The ‘Cats narrowly avoided a third straight loss squeaking out a 51-50 victory at South Carolina on Cliff Hawkins’ circus shot with three seconds left. The Gamecocks rushed the ball up the floor but Aaron Lucas’ floater at the buzzer was short. Kentucky survived a game in which they committed 20 turnovers and their two big guns, Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans, combined for just 16 points on 6 of 18 shooting. That tandem must improve in the coming weeks as the Wildcats play 5 of their next 7 games on the road.
LSU (11-4 overall, 1-1) – The Tigers evened their record to 1-1 in the SEC by rallying from 13 points down to knock off Arkansas in Baton Rouge. LSU trailed 50-37 four minutes into the second half when they came alive scoring 20 of the game’s next 26 points and grabbing a one point lead. The Tigers held on by converting 8 of 10 foul shots in the final four minutes of play. Jermaine Williams and Ronald Dupree each scored 21 points and LSU turned the ball over just three times in the second half. Unfortunately, the Tigers will have a difficult time building on this win as they travel to Florida to take on the Gators.
Mississippi (13-3 overall, 2-1) – The Rebels used strong defense and a balanced attack in a satisfying triumph over their rivals, Mississippi State, 66-59. The play of undersized big men Justin Reed and Derrick Allen kept the Rebels close and when Reed fouled out with 2:17 to play, almost on cue, guard Aaaron Harper came alive shaking off a rough shooting night to hit a big three pointer. The Rebels have been defying the odds thus far winning with the smallest frontline in the conference. Ole Miss embarks on a difficult stretch with road games at Kentucky and Arkansas where they will have to improve upon the 37 percent shooting against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State (14-3, 1-2) – After beating Kentucky on January 5th, a victory that vaulted the Bulldogs into the top 25 for the first time in six years, Mississippi State dropped two consecutive games on the road meaning their place in the polls will be short lived. After shooting just 37 percent from the field and committing 21 turnovers in a 75-64 loss at Arkansas, the suddenly-struggling Bulldogs turned in another offensive stinker against Mississippi. Against the Rebels, Mississippi State missed 11 free throws and got just four points from Marckell Patterson. The one bright spot for the Bulldogs was the play of forward Mario Austin who continues to establish himself as a premier player in the SEC. Austin scored 18 in a losing effort.
South Carolina (10-5 overall, 0-2) – The schedule was unkind to the Gamecocks pitting them against powerhouses Florida and Kentucky in their first two conference games. South Carolina played valiantly showing plenty of promise but invariably fell to 0-2 in the SEC. The Gamecocks hung in with the Gators in Gainesville forcing 22 Florida turnovers and committing just 16 of their own against the relentless Gator press. South Carolina wilted in the second half losing 69-60. The Gamecocks then blew an excellent chance to even up their record, falling to Kentucky in gut-wrenching fashion. After leading for virtually the entire afternoon South Carolina and shutting down Kentucky’s key weapons, they surrendered two late baskets by point guard Cliff Hawkins in a 51-50 defeat. South Carolina will need improved play from 6-10 Lithuanian center Mario Petravicius who is averaging just 9.5 points in the two SEC games.
Tennessee (6-8 overall, 1-2) – The Volunteers miserable luck carried over into conference play. After suffering two last second defeats to Memphis and Louisville, the Vols dropped two SEC games in heartbreaking fashion. Leading Florida 94-91 with under 10 seconds remaining, they surrendered a game tying three-point shot to Brett Nelson and eventually lost in overtime, 104-100. Tennessee followed it up by losing 73-70 to Georgia on a buzzer beating three-pointer by Ezra Williams. Strong play from Vincent Yarbrough and Ron Slay (the pair is averaging combined a 36 points a game) hasn’t been enough to pull out close games and with match-ups against Mississippi State and Syracuse looming they could be in serious trouble.
Vanderbilt (10-6 overall, 0-3) – After a solid non-conference season, the Commodores defense has deserted them in losses to Florida (95-85) and Alabama (92-79). Vandy surrendered 93.5 points a game in the two defeats and allowed their opponents to shoot 55 percent from the field. The Commodores did show some heart in the loss to Florida rallying from a 25-point deficit, behind strong shooting from Matt Freije to cut the lead to 8 and make the Gators sweat the game’s final minutes. Vandy’s defense will have to improve if they are to survive in the SEC.