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SEC teams battling for No. 3 behind Florida, Kentucky

January 24th, 2014 7:32 pm by Associated Press

SEC teams battling for No. 3 behind Florida, Kentucky

A look at five things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week: 

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Tennessee at No. 6 Florida. The Volunteers could use a quality road win to boost their NCAA tournament hopes. Although Florida has made back-to-back trips to the NCAA regional finals while Tennessee has failed to earn an NCAA bid each of the last two years, the Vols have dominated this series lately. Tennessee has won all three of its games with Florida during Cuonzo Martin’s three-year tenure as the Vols’ coach. The Vols now must try to end Florida’s 25-game home winning streak.

LOOKING AHEAD: Florida and Kentucky are widely considered to be the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, but there’s a clump of programs behind them vying for national attention. Mississippi and Georgia are both off to a 4-1 start in league play while LSU and Tennessee are among four teams at 3-2. Missouri — which jumped out to a 12-1 record during non-conference play — has had a slow 2-3 start against SEC foes.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kentucky hopes big man Willie Cauley-Stein can bounce back from his recent slide. The 7-foot sophomore has emerged as one of the nation’s elite defensive players — also showing progress on the offensive end — but has averaged just 1.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks over the last three games while battling foul trouble and ineffective play.

KEY STATS: Arkansas is now 45-6 at home and 2-21 in true road games during coach Mike Anderson’s tenure. The Razorbacks were expected to be a factor in the SEC this season, but still haven’t shown they can break through on the road. ... Georgia and South Carolina combined for 86 free throws in the Bulldogs’ 97-76 victory on Wednesday. Georgia tied a school record with 50 free throw attempts. ... Auburn has lost 15 straight games against SEC competition dating to last season.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Vanderbilt senior guards Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie have developed into one of the nation’s top backcourt duos. Foggie is averaging 19.3 and Lister 16.8 points per game. Both are averaging more than 20 points per game in SEC competition. Their production has helped the 16th-ranked Commodores (16-3, 5-1) win 13 of their last 14 games. “It’s something we’ve naturally done because we’ve played four years together and so many minutes together,” Foggie said. “It’s easy to feed off each other. It’s not forced. It’s just very, very natural.” 

Compiled by AP Sports Writers David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., and Steve Megargee in Knoxville.


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