Weekend schedule should sort out SEC’s second-place logjam
Here are a few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball competition this weekend.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
No. 10 Kentucky (12-4, 3-1 SEC) at Arkansas (14-2, 3-1): The SEC standings will sort themselves out a bit Saturday with a pair of games featuring the four teams tied for second place behind league leader LSU (12-4 4-0). One of those games has Kentucky trying to bounce back from a surprising loss at South Carolina as the Wildcats visit Arkansas. The Razorbacks own a perfect 10-0 home record in Eric Musselman’s debut season as coach. Arkansas has two of the SEC’s top four scorers in Mason Jones (18.1) and Isaiah Joe (17.8), while Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans is the conference’s assist leader (7.8). The other two second-place teams also face off Saturday as No. 4 Auburn (15-1, 3-1) tries to recover from its first loss of the season when it travels to Florida (11-5, 3-1).
Could LSU repeat?: The defending league champion had a so-so nonconference performance but is the only SEC team still unbeaten in conference play just four games into the league schedule. LSU has survived some close calls, as three of its four conference wins were decided by a total of seven points. The Tigers edged Arkansas 79-77, beat Mississippi State 60-59 on a Skylar Mays buzzer beater and defeated Texas A&M 89-85 in overtime. The Tigers now must try to keep it going without guard Charles Manning, who has a fractured bone in his foot. LSU visits Mississippi (9-7, 0-3) and hosts Florida in its next two games before leaving conference play to travel to Texas in a Big 12/SEC Challenge game on Jan. 25.
Alabama’s 83-64 victory over No. 4 Auburn on Wednesday marked the first time the Crimson Tide had beaten a team ranked fourth or higher in the AP Top 25 since defeating NO. 1 Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. … Vanderbilt has lost 23 consecutive SEC games, including its SEC Tournament losses in 2018 and 2019. The Commodores haven’t won an SEC game since March 2018. … Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic is the first 7-footer to play for Tennessee since Steve Hamer in 1992-96. The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that Plavsic is eligible to play for Tennessee effective immediately. He had five points and three rebounds in his Tennessee debut Wednesday as the Volunteers lost 80-63 at Georgia. … Mississippi State’s 72-45 blowout of Missouri marked the lowest point total the Bulldogs have allowed to an SEC foe during coach Ben Howland’s five-year tenure.
South Carolina redshirt freshman Jermaine Couisnard couldn’t have scripted a better finish to his first career start. Couisnard scored 26 points and banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Kentucky 81-78. Couisnard had 15 points in the last 11 minutes, 39 seconds. Couisnard had earned the right to move into the starting lineup after scoring 15 points off the bench in a 56-55 loss at Tennessee on Saturday.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE
No. 24 Tennessee will renew its long-dormant rivalry with Connecticut on Thursday when it visits the fourth-ranked Huskies. This will mark the first time these two traditional powers with a combined 19 national titles have faced each other since 2007. Former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt ended the series, but the two schools agreed to play a game at UConn this season and at Tennessee next year. Proceeds for Thursday’s game benefit the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Pat Summitt Foundation.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
AP sports writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Gary Graves in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.