SEC Power Rankings: Gators reign despite loss

Southeastern Conference teams — most of them, anyway — worked overtime Saturday. Four of the seven games went into overtime. But apparently that wasn’t enough.

Tennessee took four overtimes to win at Texas A&M, LSU beat visiting Alabama in three extra sessions, and both Kentucky beat Missouri and Georgia topped South Carolina in overtime to boot.

By the time the final horn sounded to end the wild day, Florida had retained the top spot in the SEC Power Rankings that it has held all season long. That comes even with the Gators losing at Missouri on Tuesday for just their second league defeat.

With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, here’s an updated look at the SEC Power Rankings:

1. Florida (22-4, 12-2)

Gators coach Billy Donovan prefers an eight-man rotation. That dropped to seven the last five games without junior forward Will Yeguete, who is hoping to return from knee injury next week. When freshman guard Michael Frazier banged his head on teammate Scottie Wilbekin’s knee and suffered a concussion while diving for a loose ball, Florida was down to using six players in the second half of its 71-54 win Saturday over Arkansas.

With a trip looming Tuesday to surging Tennessee, the Gators look to freshmen Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker to fill Frazier’s minutes if he can’t go. In the loss at Missouri, the Gators blew a 13-point lead in the second half. Florida had beaten the Tigers by 31 in its previous meeting last month in Gainesville. At No. 8, Florida is the only SEC team ranked in the Top 25. Its RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) is fourth nationally.

2. Kentucky (19-8, 10-4)

The Wildcats took to the friendly confines of Rupp Arena for a three-game home stand hoping to right the listing ship racked two weeks ago. First came the loss of freshman star Nerlens Noel for the season, followed by the subsequent 30-point disaster of a loss at Tennessee in the Wildcats’ first game without him. The Wildcats finally got another signature victory to go with their win last month at Ole Miss with the overtime win over Missouri.

Fifth-year senior Julius Mays, a Wright State graduate who transferred to UK, scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half, including eight in overtime, in the win over Missouri. Freshman guard Archie Goodwin, who has struggled of late, scored all 18 of his points after intermission. Freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein, the replacement for Noel, had a career-high 20 points in a win over stubborn Vanderbilt. Kentucky’s RPI this week is 46, third-best in the SEC.

3. Alabama (18-9, 10-4)

The Crimson Tide drop a slot to third in the SEC Power Rankings after blowing a 10-point lead in the last 3:37 of regulation in the triple-overtime loss at LSU. Junior guard Trevor Releford played a team-high 50 minutes and scored a career-high 36 points. He also had three steals to become Alabama’s all-time steals leader with 178, surpassing Senario Hillman, who had 176 from 2007-10. The game was tied seven times and had 16 lead changes. The Crimson Tide had won five of six games before the loss.

In the win over Mississippi State, sophomore guard Rodney Cooper had his first double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Crimson Tide have a winning league record for a third straight season, best since the team did it from 1994-96. Alabama had a season-high 18 steals against Mississippi State. Alabama’s RPI this week is 62, sixth-best in the SEC.

4. Missouri (19-8, 8-6)

The Tigers just don’t lose at home, now 15-0 this season and 30-1 over the last two at Mizzou Arena after rallying past Florida on Tuesday. It’s just the opposite on the road, where they are 1-7 following the loss at Kentucky. Senior forward Laurence Bowers had 17 points and 10 rebounds versus Florida. During the week, Tigers coach Frank Haith and the university received notification from the NCAA for possible rules violations while he coached at Miami.

Senior point guard Phil Pressey, who has battled inconsistency, had 27 points and 10 assists against Kentucky, which played host to Missouri for the first time. The Tigers need one more win for a fifth straight 20-win season. The 126 wins over five seasons is the best such stretch in program history. Missouri had outrebounded opponents nine straight games before being outdone by Kentucky. Missouri’s RPI is 38, second-best in the SEC.

5. Ole Miss (20-7, 9-5)

Senior forward Murphy Holloway played two seasons with Ole Miss, transferred to South Carolina in his home state but sat out a year because of the transfer rule, and then headed back to Ole Miss the past two seasons to finish his carer. His homecoming Wednesday that featured 19 points and 13 rebounds was marred by a one-point upset loss to the Gamecocks. After a 13-2 run netted the Rebels a six-point lead with 5:04 to play, they would not score again.

The recent swoon by the Rebels that included five losses in seven games was halted by the 33-point win over visiting Auburn. Junior guard Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s top scorer, came off the bench for the first time and tied a school record with eight 3-pointers and 28 points. Andy Kennedy became the program’s all-time wins leader with 145. The Rebels’ RPI is 56, fourth-best in the SEC.

6. Tennessee (16-10, 8-6)

In winning the longest game in program history, the Volunteers claimed their fifth straight and continued a late surge similar to last season when they won eight of their last nine regular-season games. It was the first meeting for the teams as league foes. Junior guard Trae Golden, the SEC Player of the Week, continued stellar play of late with a career-high 32 points, including 15 in the overtime periods. He is averaging 20.8 points the last five games.

Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes had his 12th double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds. In the win over LSU, junior guard Jordan McRae hit all six 3-point attempts and notched a career-high 34 points. Since going to a four-guard starting lineup, the Vols are 4-0. The Vols could claim a signature win for their NCAA resume with a win Tuesday over visiting Florida. UT’s RPI is 57, fifth-best in the SEC but only one point behind Ole Miss.

7. Arkansas (17-10, 8-6)

Junior forward Coty Clarke hit all eight shots and scored 18 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds in the loss Saturday at Florida. Trailing by only four points at halftime, the Razorbacks watched Florida open the second half on an 11-0 run and quickly open the lead to 20 points.

Sophomore guard B.J. Young’s right-handed scoop shot with six seconds to play proved to be the game-winner shot in beating visiting Georgia. Freshman Anthlon Bell came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points off five 3-pointers. The Hogs have an RPI of 80.

8. LSU (16-9, 7-7)

Thirty-five years before Saturday’s triple-overtime win over visiting Alabama, LSU beat then-No. 1 Kentucky in overtime. Ironically, that team was honored at Saturday’s game in Maravich Assembly Center. Sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant played 51 minutes with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He had 24 and eight in the Tuesday loss at Tennessee. Senior guard Charles Carmouche got the iron man award with a game-high 54 minutes played.

The loss at Tennessee was the Tigers’ third game in six days. LSU has won seven of its last 10 games. Visiting Arkansas on Wednesday is a key game for both teams’ tourney resume. LSU’s RPI is 97.

9. Georgia (13-14, 7-7)

The streaky Bulldogs had to overcome a four-point deficit in the final minute to join the overtime parade. They then outscored the Gamecocks 9-1 in overtime to snap a three-game losing skid. Before that, Georgia had won five in a row.

Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope notched two more games scoring in double figures to keep his streak of doing so in every game this season. He’s the only SEC player and one of only 11 Division I players nationally to do so, heading into the week. Georgia’s RPI is 123.

10. Texas A&M (16-11, 6-8)

While the four-overtime game was a record for Tennessee, the Aggies had played a five-overtime game — a 116-110 loss to Baylor on Jan. 23, 2008. Senior guard Elston Turner had 38 points during a school-record 58 minutes, breaking his own Reed Arena single-game scoring record of 37 earlier this season. Returning after missing a game with a sprained ankle, freshman guard J’Mychal Reese scored 13 points. Four Aggies fouled out, compared to none for Tennessee.

The Aggies missed their first 13 shots in the mid-week win at Auburn. Freshman guard Alex Caruso had 14 points and eight rebounds, both career highs. The Aggies made 13 of 14 second-half free throws, including all six in the final 27 seconds. Texas A&M’s RPI is 86.

11. Vanderbilt (11-15, 5-9)

After nearly beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena Wednesday, the Commodores took that road confidence to Mississippi State Saturday for a 72-31 blowout win. It was the largest SEC win for the Commodores since they beat Kentucky by 41 points in 2008. Vanderbilt out-rebounded State 49-17, its largest margin of the year. The Commodores continue to get production from various young players, including sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker, who had 13 rebounds versus State; and two freshmen, forward Sheldon Jeter and guard Kevin Bright, who had a game-high 15 points.

The Commodores turned a 14-point deficit into only two in the second half before falling by four at Kentucky. Unlike against Mississippi State, the Commodores were manhandled on the boards 38-24 by the Wildcats. They had no answer for Kentucky center Cauley-Stein.
12. South Carolina (13-14, 3-11)

First-year Gamecocks coach Frank Martin has his team improving and being a pest, just ask Ole Miss, which got a full dose of freshman forward Michael Carrera with 13 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double this season.

South Carolina held the Rebels’ Henderson to 11 points, eight points below his league-leading average. In the loss to Georgia, the Gamecocks missed all seven shots and scored only one point in the overtime period.

13. Auburn (9-18, 3-11)

The Tigers were on the wrong end of Ole Miss angst in Saturday’s 33-point loss. The only bright spot for the Tigers was freshman guard Shaquille Johnson scoring a career-high 18 points.

In the home loss to Texas A&M, the Tigers shot to an early 12-0 lead and even led by one midway through the second half, but they would end up shooting just 26 percent after intermission as the Aggies held off several rallies.

14. Mississippi State (7-19, 2-12)

In losing their 12th game in a row, the Bulldogs hit rock bottom with the embarrassing 72-31 home loss to Vanderbilt. They went without a field goal the first 11 minutes of the game, and finished shooting an anemic 17.5 percent from the field. They made only 4 of 22 shots in the first half. “It all starts with making shots,” Bulldogs first-year coach Rick Ray said. The Bulldogs are down to only eight regulars on the roster.