Alabama hosts Kentucky looking to topple another Top 25 team
Here are a few things to watch in the Southeastern Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 15 Kentucky at Alabama: Kentucky has lost three of its last five games and is coming off a closer-than-expected 92-85 victory over LSU. In their last two road games, the Wildcats have fallen at Tennessee and Florida. Now the Wildcats go back on the road Saturday to face Alabama, which is seeking its second win over a Top 25 team this week. Alabama won a 90-86 quadruple-overtime marathon Tuesday at No. 19 South Carolina. Kentucky has beaten Alabama six straight times.
LOOKING AHEAD: Is Florida the new SEC favorite? No. 17 Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina are in a three-way tie for first place, but the Gators are unquestionably the hottest team in the conference. Since losing 68-66 at home to Vanderbilt on Jan. 21, Florida has won five straight games by an average margin of 28 points. That includes an 88-66 home victory over Kentucky last weekend. Florida hosts Texas A&M and visits Auburn and Mississippi State in its next three contests before a critical two-game stretch that includes a Feb. 21 home matchup with South Carolina and a Feb. 25 trip to Kentucky.
NUMBERS GAME: Alabama's victory over South Carolina on Tuesday marked the SEC's first quadruple-overtime game since Tennessee's 93-85 victory at Texas A&M in 2013. ... South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell had 33 free-throw attempts in the Alabama game to break Pete Maravich's SEC record. Thornwell made 25 free throws, the second-highest total in SEC history. Maravich was 30 of 31 from the line against Oregon State in 1970. ... Georgia has lost its last four road games by an average margin of just four points, including overtime defeats at Florida and Kentucky. Georgia's other two road losses in that stretch are a one-point game against Texas A&M and a two-point decision at South Carolina. ... Florida's 88-66 triumph over Kentucky on Saturday represented its largest margin of victory in the history of the series. ... Kentucky is averaging 90.2 points per game. If the Wildcats can keep the current pace, it would be the first time an SEC team has scored more than 90 a game over a full season since 1996 when Kentucky averaged 91.4 points.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Florida guard Chris Chiozza is coming up big off the bench for the Gators. He scored a team-high 15 points and had four steals Tuesday in a 72-60 victory at Georgia after posting 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists last week in a 93-54 blowout of Missouri. Chiozza was the first Division I player to post a triple-double off the bench since Chris Lowe did it for UMass in 2008. Chiozza also had nine rebounds and nine assists Saturday against Kentucky.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: The SEC had six representatives among the 30 players on the watch list for the Naismith Trophy given annually to the nation's top women's basketball player. The list was released Wednesday. SEC players on the list include South Carolina's Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson, Kentucky's Makayla Epps, Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians and Tennessee's Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.