Here are a few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Arkansas at No. 6 Kentucky: Arkansas has lost only twice all season but could be running into a buzzsaw Saturday as it heads into Rupp Arena to face a Kentucky team that just produced a 100-58 blowout of Texas A&M , which shared the conference regular-season title with the Wildcats last season. Kentucky guard and SEC scoring leader Malik Monk grew up in Arkansas and was heavily recruited by his home-state school before signing with the Wildcats.
LOOKING AHEAD: Who will emerge as Kentucky’s main challenger? Kentucky is the clear favorite in the SEC after winning its first two conference games by an average margin of 32.5 points. The next-best team in the league is much less certain. The only other SEC school in the Top 25 is No. 24 Florida, which hosts Tennessee on Saturday. Texas A&M, an NCAA regional semifinalist last year, has dropped its first two conference games.
NUMBERS GAME: Road teams have gone 9-3 so far in SEC competition, including a 5-0 record Dec. 29 on the first night of league play. Last season, road teams went just 38-88 in SEC games for a .302 winning percentage. … Kentucky already has scored 100-plus points in five games this season. That marks Kentucky’s highest total of 100-point games in a season since 1995-96. … Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox are the first teammates to record triple-doubles in the same season in SEC history. … Vanderbilt’s 80-61 victory over Auburn on Wednesday was the Commodores’ 13th straight win in this series. … Mississippi State dropped its SEC opener 68-58 to Alabama. The Bulldogs - who made the NCAA Tournament six times in the 2000s - have a 20-53 record in SEC play over the past five seasons.
PLAYER TO WATCH: South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell: South Carolina was undefeated when Thornwell was suspended for a violation of team rules but went just 3-3 in the six games he missed. In his first game since being reinstated, Thornwell had 19 points, 11 rebounds and tied a career high with six steals as the Gamecocks won 67-61 at Georgia. The 6-foot-5 senior guard averages 18.8 points and 7.3 rebounds to lead the Gamecocks in both categories.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 4 Mississippi State is one of only three undefeated Division I teams along with No. 1 Connecticut and No. 18 Virginia Tech. Mississippi State’s No. 4 position in the Top 25 represents its highest ranking ever. … Tennessee’s Jordan Reynolds delivered only the third triple-double in Lady Volunteers history when she had 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over UNC Wilmington. The others came from Shekinna Stricklen in 2010 and Shelia Collins in 1985.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.
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