No. 8 Kentucky, No. 24 Florida clash in SEC Top 25 showdown
Here are a few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 8 Kentucky at No. 24 Florida: Kentucky has been on a slide lately. Kentucky lost two straight before beating Georgia in overtime at home Tuesday to avoid what would have been the Wildcats' first three-game skid of John Calipari's coaching tenure. Kentucky will try returning to peak form Saturday when it visits Florida, which has won each of its last three games by over 30 points. Kentucky has won the last five games in this series after losing three straight to the Gators in 2014.
LOOKING AHEAD: Tennessee has an opportunity to emerge as a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender as it attempts to build on its four-game winning streak. The Volunteers (12-9) are sixth in the SEC standings and were struggling to stay above .500 until recently, but they've played one of the nation's toughest schedules. That schedule strength has helped Tennessee move into the top 40 of the RPI. Tennessee visits Mississippi State on Saturday before hosting Mississippi and Georgia next week.
NUMBERS GAME: Kentucky's Malik Monk has the two highest-scoring games of any freshman in school history. Monk scored 37 points Tuesday against Georgia after getting 47 points in a Dec. 17 triumph over No. 12 North Carolina. ... No. 19 South Carolina's 8-1 SEC record is its best conference mark midway through the league schedule since the 1996-97 team won its first 11 conference games. That 1996-97 team went on to win the SEC regular-season title. ... Tennessee's 87-77 victory over Auburn on Tuesday dropped Auburn coach Bruce Pearl to 1-4 in games against his former team. Pearl led Tennessee to six straight NCAA bids from 2006-11. ... Vanderbilt's Riley LaChance is shooting 51.2 percent (43 of 84) from 3-point range this season. He's challenging the SEC record for 3-point percentage set by Kentucky's Travis Ford, who shot 52.9 percent from beyond the arc in 1993.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ole Miss F Sebastian Saiz: This 6-foot-9 senior from Spain averages 11.2 rebounds to rank sixth among Division I players. He also has 15.8 points per game, good for eighth place in the SEC. He's the only SEC player averaging a double-double this season. Saiz had 17 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday against Mississippi State for his 15th double-double of the season and the 24th of his career. He has five double-doubles in his last six games.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 4 South Carolina's 30-game SEC home winning streak ended Monday with a 76-74 loss to Tennessee. ... Florida's Ronni Williams scored a career-high 43 points Sunday in a 93-73 victory at Vanderbilt. The only Power Five players to score more than 43 points in a game this season are California's Kristine Anigwe, Syracuse's Alexis Peterson and Washington's Kelsey Plum (who has four 44-point games).
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.