With the battle for No. 1 seeds heating up, Tennessee dealt Kentucky a blow by knocking off the Wildcats at home 74-65. Guards J.P. Price and Scotty Hopson led the way for the Vols by scoring 20 and 15 points, respectively. Kentucky was paced by freshmen again, with John Wall putting up 19 points and DeMarcus Cousins accumulating 15 points and 14 boards. UT actually led comfortably for much of the game, but it managed to completely blow a 19 point lead. That furious comeback left UK out of gas though, and Tennessee scored the final nine points of the game to seal it.
The win bolsters the Vols' seeding some, but it likely won't drop the 'Cats a line thanks to Kansas' loss and Purdue's Robbie Hummel going down for the season.
Elsewhere, Georgia remained undefeated in division play at home by taking down Florida 78-74. The Bulldogs were up 45-30 at the half, but a long UF comeback over the final 15 minutes came up short and preserved the win for UGA. Florida's Chandler Parsons was the player of the game, putting up 29 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Trey Thompkins was great as ususal for Georgia with 20 points, seven boards, and five dimes.
The loss means that the Gators must defeat Vanderbilt or Kentucky to finish the regular season to get back in good shape regarding the tournament. It also means that Florida likely will need to win at least a game in the conference tournament, not so much because UF needs the win but because Florida really doesn't need another bad loss.
Outside the realm of upsets, Mississippi State clinched the SEC West crown with its 76-63 win over South Carolina. It's been a long and winding path for the Bulldogs to get where everyone thought they'd be, but now they're officially there. Five MSU players went into double figures in a balanced effort, led by Jarvis Varnado's 19 and Barry Stewart's 18. Carolina's Devan Downey had an uncharacteristic 12 points on 5-14 shooting, his lowest scoring output of the season. MSU isn't yet into "should be in" territory for the Big Dance yet, but every win is important.
The other Magnolia State team scored a road victory as Ole Miss squeezed by Alabama in Tuscaloosa 76-73. The Tide led for much of the game, but the Rebels were able to pull it together at the end and make more free throws than their counterparts did. Both teams had balance as nine total players made it into double digits, but Ole Miss shot a sharp 48% from downtown. The Rebels are still solidly outside the tournament, but if other bubble teams start collapsing, all these recent wins will only help their case.
Out in Fayetteville, Vanderbilt had little trouble with defeating Arkansas 89-72 and earning just the school's second victory there in history (and the first for Kevin Stallings). Five Commodores made it into double figures, led by Jeffery Taylor's 18 and A.J. Ogilvy's 14. Ogilvy also had six boards and two blocks. Marshawn Powell did his best for the Hogs, scoring 27 while snaring nine rebounds. Only two other Razorbacks made it into double digits though, as the team shot under under 38% for the contest.
LSU fell hard after its first SEC win of the season, going down to Auburn 74-59. Tay Waller put on a show for the Plainsmen, hitting six treys on the way to scoring 26 points. Bo Spencer countered with 23 for the purple and gold, but with Tasmin Mitchell hampered by foul trouble, LSU had few answers despite outrebounding Auburn 32-19. It was a blow to Bayou Bengals fans who were hoping for some momentum, as LSU now has clinched the worst conference record of the year.
A quick check of the Bubble Watch shows Florida still in somehow with Mississippi State just outside the dance at second on the first four out. Ole Miss is first on the next four out, so they're hovering nearby but without an abundance of hope.
Florida has the toughest draw of the three this week, as the Gators host Vanderbilt tomorrow and travel to Lexington on Saturday. MSU has a bit easier of a road to hoe. First is a game at Auburn on Wednesday that smells vaguely of a trap game, followed by a very important game at home versus Tennessee. The Bulldogs must win both to have a real shot with the committee. Ole Miss has only LSU on Thursday and a trip to Fayetteville on Saturday, so the Rebels must root for chaos on the bubble and win a good number of games in the SEC tournament to have a chance.