A look at the upcoming week around the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 21 Kentucky travels to face Missouri in a game that could be huge for the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Missouri won at Alabama earlier this week to gain some desperately needed momentum, but is still just 4-5 in conference play. Kentucky will try to get off to a better start after erasing double-digit deficits in victories over West Virginia and Vanderbilt . In another big game, Alabama travels to play No. 23 Florida. The matchup gives both teams an opportunity for redemption after Florida lost to Georgia and Alabama fell to Missouri earlier this week. Florida’s in a three-way tie for second place in the league standings, while Alabama is a game behind those three teams.
LOOKING AHEAD: Can anyone catch Auburn?: For all the talk about the SEC’s depth potentially creating a wide-open race for the league title, No. 11 Auburn is starting to pull away from everyone else. The Tigers (20-2, 8-1) have a two-game lead in the SEC standings as they chase their first league regular-season title since 1999. Auburn has three of its next four games at home, where the Tigers haven’t lost all season.
NUMBERS GAME: Mississippi State’s 81-76 victory at South Carolina on Wednesday snapped a 12-game road losing streak. The Bulldogs hadn’t won a true road game since an 84-78 triumph over Arkansas on Jan. 10, 2017. … No. 18 Tennessee has outscored opponents 134-48 in bench points during its four-game winning streak. In three of Tennessee’s last four games, the Vols’ reserves have outscored their starters. … Auburn already has produced its first 20-win season and highest SEC win total since a 24-12 campaign in 2008-09. … Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin earned his 200th career victory Wednesday when the Tigers won 69-60 at Alabama. Martin owns a career record of 200-129 in 10 seasons at Missouri State (2008-11), Tennessee (2011-14), California (2014-17) and Missouri (2017-present). … Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points against Vanderbilt on Tuesday after teammate Kevin Knox had 34 in a victory at West Virginia on Saturday. It’s the first time Kentucky had 30-point performances from separate players in back-to-back games since Jodie Meeks had 46 against Appalachian State and Patrick Patterson scored 33 against Tennessee State in December 2008.
IMPACT PERFORMER: Missouri’s heralded freshman class garnered much of the preseason attention, but its graduate transfer Kassius Robertson who has carried the Tigers lately. Robertson, who came to Missouri from Canisius, has scored at least 20 points in three straight games. He had 22 points Wednesday in Missouri’s victory over Alabama. He is averaging 15.7 points this season to lead Missouri and rank eighth in the SEC.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 2 Mississippi State survived its toughest test of the season Thursday when it won 57-53 at No. 15 Missouri. Mississippi State and No. 1 Connecticut are the only two remaining unbeaten teams. The Bulldogs host No. 7 South Carolina on Sunday. … The rivalry between South Carolina and Missouri grew more heated this week after Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley fostered a hostile atmosphere during their game Sunday. South Carolina’s 64-54 victory over Missouri on Sunday included a brief altercation in the fourth quarter that resulted in the ejections of two Missouri reserves.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.