Heavyweights Kansas, Kentucky meet in SEC/Big 12 Challenge
Here are a few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 2 Kansas at No. 4 Kentucky. The headline attraction of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge features two top-five teams attempting to bounce back from rare losses. Kansas lost 85-69 at No. 18 West Virginia on Tuesday to snap an 18-game winning streak while Kentucky fell 82-80 at Tennessee after winning seven straight. In last year's SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Kentucky fell 90-84 at Kansas in overtime.
LOOKING AHEAD: The SEC is looking to help itself Saturday. The SEC heads into Saturday's SEC/Big 12 Challenge needing to make a statement to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The SEC earned only three NCAA bids last season and has only three teams in this week's Top 25: Kentucky, No. 23 South Carolina and No. 25 Florida. The SEC can help its cause with a strong performance Saturday in its 10 head-to-head matchups with Big 12 teams. The Big 12 won seven of the 10 games in last season's SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
NUMBERS GAME: Florida made a school-record 19 3-pointers Wednesday in a 106-71 victory at LSU. The Gators also recorded their highest point total in an SEC game since a 106-86 triumph over Mississippi on Jan. 25, 1971. ... Mississippi State has two of the three most accurate 3-point shooters in the SEC. Quinndary Weatherspoon is shooting 44.4 percent from long range while freshman Lamar Peters is right behind him at 44.1 percent. Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance is making nearly 54 percent (43 of 80) of his 3-point attempts to lead the league. ... LSU is just 1-7 in the SEC and a big reason is poor defense. The Tigers are giving up 90.5 points per game in conference play and allowing opponents to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs III: During a season in which freshmen have garnered much of the attention around the conference, this senior is enjoying a breakthrough year. Hubbs scored 25 points Tuesday in Tennessee's upset of Kentucky. That followed a 19-point performance in a 91-74 victory over Mississippi State. Hubbs has shot 17 of 25 from the floor during that two-game stretch. He is averaging 15.2 points to rank 11th in the SEC and first on his team.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 5 South Carolina took command of the SEC race Monday by beating No. 4 Mississippi State 64-61 in the only regular-season meeting between the two teams. ... In four of its first seven conference games, Texas A&M has come from at least nine points down to win or force overtime. They rallied from a 15-point deficit Sunday in a 54-52 victory over LSU. The Aggies have another big game on Sunday when they travel to face Mississippi State.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.