SEC report:

Rebels' uprising hits SEC

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Mississippi guard Devontae Shuler (2) shakes hands with head coach Kermit Davis after they defeated Vanderbilt in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mississippi guard Devontae Shuler (2) shakes hands with head coach Kermit Davis after they defeated Vanderbilt in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(SEC report, for 1.15)

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

RANK;LAST WEEK;NET;TEAM (RECORDS);COMMENT

1;1;5;Tennessee (14-1, 3-0);Three SEC wins by average of 27.0 points

2;2;17;Auburn (12-3, 1-1);At A&M before showdown vs. Kentucky

3;4;11;Kentucky (12-3, 2-1);Rebound margin (+9.9) leads SEC by +3.1

4;5;24;Ole Miss (13-2, 3-0);Front-runner for top SEC surprise team

5;6;25;LSU (12-3, 2-0);Has hit 20 of 40 three-pointers in SEC play

6;12;133;South Carolina (8-7, 3-0);Road games at Vandy, LSU upcoming

7;7;40;Florida (9-6, 1-2);Gators 0-2 at home in conference action

8;3;34; Miss. State (12-3, 0-2);Soft nonconference funneled into 0-2 start

9;8;75;Arkansas (10-5, 1-2);Rare back-to-back losses at Walton

10;14;70;Georgia (9-6, 1-2);Bulldogs host Kentucky and Florida this week

11;13;81; Texas A&M (7-7, 1-2);Buzzer-beating victors at Alabama

12;9;60;Alabama (10-5, 1-2);Giving up league-high 73.3 points per game

13;10;85;Missouri (9-5, 0-2);SEC's best three-point shooing at 39.4 percent

14;11;72;Vanderbilt (9-6, 0-3);Shooting 36.2 percent, SEC-low 60.3 ppg in SEC

The NCAA has instituted a new rating system called the NET Rankings, which is taking the place of the Ratings Percentage Index. An acronym for NCAA Evaluation Tool, the NET rankings takes into account game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency and the quality of wins and losses.

Game of the week

Kentucky at Auburn, 3 p.m., Saturday (ESPN)

Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl thinks the defending SEC co-champion Tigers aren't getting enough recognition. A victory over the Wildcats would help in that regard. Kentucky Coach John Calipari is mystified as to why his team is getting off to slow starts.

QUOTEBOOK

"I didn't think he'd be beating us this regularly, or I probably would have told him not to take the job." -- Kentucky Coach John Calipari on recommending the Tennessee job to his friend Rick Barnes

"I think that was pretty low. We are the University of Florida. Everyone wants to beat Florida." Florida center Kevarrius Hayes after several Tennessee players did the Gator chomp on the court after winning 78-67 in Gainesville, Fla.

"If we stay where we are right now, we won't be able to achieve what we'd like to achieve." -- Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes

By the numbers

3

Season-low turnovers by Texas A&M in its 81-80 victory at Alabama

9

Victories by Ole Miss in its past 11 games against rival Mississippi State

10

Current winning streaks for Ole Miss and Tennessee

16

Consecutive losses by Florida to a top 5 team after falling to No. 3 Tennessee

The Ole Miss Rebels are writing the top comeback story in the SEC through the first two league weekends, and now they've got a national ranking to show from it.

Ole Miss (13-2, 3-0 SEC) moved into the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in nearly six years Monday at No. 18.

First-year Coach Kermit Davis' charges already have posted two SEC road victories and are one of three 3-0 teams in league play.

"It's great for Ole Miss basketball," Davis said of the ranking. "If you're a blue blood and you've been there for the last eight or 10 years, maybe not so much. But for a first-year staff and program fighting for national recognition, there's really three things you love it for -- your players, your fans and then recruiting."

The Rebels knocked off defending SEC co-champion and No. 11 Auburn 82-67 in their lone SEC home game Wednesday, sandwiching an 81-71 victory at Vanderbilt and an 81-77 victory at No. 14 Mississippi State around that victory.

It was the first back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for Ole Miss since the 2012-13 season.

"Watching film, we knew how good they were," Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew said. "Then you have to look at their personnel. They're a year older. They're a year more mature. There's a lot of guys who have played in the league and know what to expect."

Ole Miss, which finished 12-20 last season as veteran coach Andy Kennedy called it quits, already has surpassed its win total from last year.

"I think it's great nationally, the recognition," Davis said. "We all know what's ahead of us. But for a team trying to grow their national brand in basketball, I couldn't be more proud and happy for the people involved."

The Rebels host LSU tonight at 8 p.m. before hosting Arkansas on Saturday at noon at The Pavilion in Oxford, Miss.

Carolina curve

South Carolina is 3-0 in the SEC after being the only league team with a losing record (5-7) during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

The Gamecocks dealt with a series of injuries during nonconference play, but they have rounded into shape with victories at Florida, and versus Mississippi State and Missouri to open conference.

"We're fortunate that we won three very close games," South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said. "It's not something like on Dec. 31 we woke up and said, 'OK, it's time to win.'

"It's something that's been going on. We were hampered the second part of October, the whole month of November, early part of December with just constant injuries. Couple that with eight new guys on our roster. It takes time. We played a very hard nonconference schedule, which is what I like."

Top players

Ole Miss guard Terence Davis was named the SEC Player of the Week after averaging 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in victories over No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Mississippi State.

The 6-4 guard had team highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds in the Rebels' 82-67 victory over Auburn. Davis' 19th 20-point game moved him onto the team's top 25 career scoring chart.

Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans was chosen as SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 73.3 percent in wins over Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Hagans scored 18 points against the Aggies, his third consecutive game of posting a career high in scoring.

Shooting stars

Tennessee is the only SEC team hitting more than half its shots this season with a team shooting percentage of 51.5 percent.

The Volunteers have gotten better since the start of SEC play. They have made 94 of 177 shots (53.1 percent) to easily lead the conference in that category. The Vols and LSU (50.4) percent are the only SEC teams to hit at least half their shots in league play.

Slow starts

Vanderbilt jumped out to a 16-5 lead at Kentucky and led the Wildcats 30-28 at halftime before falling 56-47 at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

The Commodores started 5 of 11 from three-point range to build the lead, then their long-range shooting went south.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari, frustrated with the slow starts that have plagued his team, called the situation ridiculous.

"We've got to figure out how we start games," Calipari said. "This is getting ridiculous. It's five [first] halves in a row where we just start the game and we're getting smashed."

Snow play

A freakish storm that brought as many as 18 inches of snow to parts of central Missouri prevented the Missouri Tigers from making a flight from their Columbia, Mo., base to Columbia, S.C., on Friday and postponing the Tigers game at South Carolina.

The teams tipped off on Sunday and the Gamecocks prevailed 85-75.

Gamecock omen

South Carolina's 85-75 victory over Missouri on Sunday improved the Gamecocks to 3-0 in SEC play.

Two other South Carolina teams with 3-0 starts did great things. The 1996-97 team won its first 11 SEC games before falling 77-74 at Georgia on Feb. 12 and claimed the SEC regular-season championship with a 15-1 record under Eddie Fogler. That team was eliminated from the SEC Tournament at The Pyramid in Memphis by Georgia (78-63) before being upset 78-65 by No. 15 seed Coppin State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Two seasons ago, the Gamecocks also opened 3-0 in the SEC and wound up making the school's first Final Four run under Coach Frank Martin.

Tough start

Mississippi State entered SEC play with a 12-1 mark, but the Bulldogs have fallen on the wrong side of a pair of tight games to open SEC play.

The Bulldogs dropped an 87-82 decision in overtime to open SEC play Wednesday to South Carolina, then fell 81-77 at home to Ole Miss on Saturday.

Coach Ben Howland's club must beat Florida tonight at Humphrey Coliseum to avoid an 0-3 start in conference.

Stripe stats

Ole Miss leads the SEC with 76.1 percent free-throw shooting while Arkansas is last -- by a considerable margin -- at 64 percent.

The next worst free-throw shooting team is Auburn at 67.2 percent. Only four other SEC teams are shooting less than 70 percent -- Texas A&M (69.8), Missouri (69.2), Alabama (68.9) and Florida (67.4).

The closest teams to the Rebels are Kentucky (75.2), LSU (74.7) and Tennessee (74.3).

The Razorbacks have made 43 of 76 free throws (also an SEC-low 56.6 percent) in conference play, 27 percentage points behind league leader Tennessee (83.6 percent).

Humphrey names

Mississippi State's home arena, Humphrey Coliseum, has long been referred to by Bulldogs fans as "The Hump."

The facility that opened in the 1975-76 season plays up the nickname by having "The Hump" written on one of the baselines.

The other baseline features a nickname for the Bulldogs' home base of Starkville, Miss. -- "StarkVegas."

Tip-ins

• LSU center Naz Reid, the SEC leader with 70.6 percent shooting in conference games, is 5 of 5 on three-pointers in league play.

• South Carolina's Hassani Gravett went 12 of 12 from the free-throw line against Missouri, the top performance of the season by an SEC player. Eight other players have been perfect at the line with at least eight attempts this season, including 11 of 11 by Alabama's Kira Lewis Jr. against Wichita State on Nov. 18.

• Tennessee outscored Florida 34-12 in the paint Saturday in the Volunteers' 78-67 victory at ExacTech Arena.

Sports on 01/15/2019

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