No. 13 Florida, No. 11 Kentucky game could decide SEC race
Here are a few things to watch in the Southeastern Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky: The winner of Saturday’s showdown at Rupp Arena takes over sole possession of first place in the SEC. They enter the game with identical 23-5 overall records and 13-2 conference marks. Florida has won nine straight games, including an 88-66 victory over Kentucky in Gainesville on Feb. 4. Kentucky has won five in a row since that loss at Florida. The Gators won’t have injured center John Egbunu, who had eight points and seven rebounds in the first meeting with Kentucky.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vanderbilt’s chance to make a statement: Vanderbilt (15-13, 8-7 SEC) has won three straight games as it attempts to make a late run at an NCAA Tournament bid. After hosting Mississippi State on Saturday, Vanderbilt visits Kentucky and hosts Florida in its final two regular-season games. That’s quite a demanding stretch, but it also gives the Commodores opportunities for upsets that would impress the selection committee. Vanderbilt leads the SEC in 3-pointers and 3-point percentage, but its defense has played a big part in the recent surge. The Commodores won 67-56 at Tennessee on Wednesday by holding the Volunteers to their lowest point total and field-goal percentage of the season.
NUMBERS GAME: This is the third straight season in which Missouri has lost at least 20 games. Never before has an SEC team lost 20-plus games in three straight seasons (Texas A&M did it while it was still in the Big 12). … Florida went 9 of 19 from 3-point range in an 81-66 victory over South Carolina on Tuesday after missing all 17 of its 3-point attempts in a 57-53 loss at South Carolina on Jan. 18. … Vanderbilt has forced its last three opponents to shoot a combined 7 of 42 from 3-point range. … Tennessee’s Robert Hubbs III scored his 1,000th career point Wednesday against Vanderbilt. He’s the 48th Volunteer to reach that mark. … Arkansas’ Daryl Macon scored 30 points as a reserve in a victory over Mississippi on Saturday. He’s one of only four Razorbacks to score 30-plus points off the bench since Arkansas joined the SEC in the 1991-92 season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: He’s been overshadowed by other freshmen playing for more successful teams, but Texas A&M forward Robert Williams is producing a fantastic debut season. Williams has nine double-doubles this season, including four in his last five games. The 6-foot-9 forward also has blocked at least one shot in 27 straight games, a streak that leads all Division I players. He’s second in the SEC in rebounds (7.7) and rebounds (2.7).
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 3 Mississippi State and No. 7 South Carolina share first place in the SEC standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Mississippi State is seeking to earn the school’s first SEC regular-season title in any women’s sport. If Mississippi State and South Carolina end up tied for first place, South Carolina would get the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament because it won the lone regular-season matchup between these two teams. … No. 24 Missouri’s .802 free-throw percentage puts the Tigers on pace to break the SEC single-season record of .781, set by Georgia in 2005-06.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.