Big 12/SEC Challenge highlights play this upcoming weekend

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A look at the weekend action around the Southeastern Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

Much of the conference is participating in the Big 12/SEC Challenge this weekend. that features 10 games between the leagues. The featured contest is No. 9 Alabama at No. 24 Oklahoma, one of two showdowns between ranked teams in the challenge. The Crimson Tide, at 9-0 in SEC play, have a three-game lead on second place teams LSU and Florida. Alabama, which hasn’t been ranked this high since 2006-07, cemented its hold on the top with an 70-59 win over Kentucky earlier this week and will get the chance to show the country its talent against an Oklahoma game that’s won four straight. Alabama is led by John Petty, who is averaging 13.9 points a game this season. The other matchup of ranked teams is 15th-ranked Kansas at No. 18 Tennessee. No. 2 Baylor will host Auburn as part of the challenge. It’s the eighth annual challenge and over the last four years, each league has won 20 games.

SEC vs. SEC

There are four SEC teams not playing Big 12 teams this week with Ole Miss at Georgia and South Carolina at Vanderbilt playing Saturday.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Keyshawn Bryant, G, South Carolina: The Gamecocks junior swingman is having himself a time since returning from the team’s two COVID-19 pauses since early December. Bryant is averaging 22 points and seven rebounds over his past four games. He had his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds in South Carolina’s 83-59 victory over Georgia this past Wednesday. That game didn’t start off so great for Bryant, who early on blew an open dunk attempt. Bryant, asked his thoughts after the miss, said, “Don’t make contact with Frank” Martin, South Carolina’s coach.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Arkansas held Mississippi to 1-of-16 shooting on 3-pointers in a 74-59 victory, its third in a row, this week. The Razorbacks came in seventh in the league in three-point defense. … Florida kept up its hot shooting, connecting on 52% in a 78-71 win over Vanderbilt where all five starters for the Gators reached double figures. It’s the third straight game Florida has shot 49% or better and its third straight victory. … Tennessee took control near the basket, making 12 of 20 dunks or layups to outlast Mississippi State, 56-53, this past Tuesday. … Kentucky continued its slide this season, losing for the fourth time in last five games with its 70-59 defeat to Alabama. The Wildcats are next-to-last in SEC offense at 67 points per game and dead last in league shooting. …. Sharife Cooper lifted Auburn to an 889-82 victory over 12th-ranked Missouri with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Auburn hadn’t beaten a team ranked that high in nearly two years since an 84-80 victory over then-fifth-ranked Tennessee in 2019.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE

The weekend action for the women’s teams is highlighted by a Top 25 matchup: No. 22 Georgia at No. 8 Texas A&M. For the Lady Bulldogs, its their fourth time in the last six games they’ve faced a ranked opponent — and so far, so good. Georgia prevailed in close games with No. 20 Tennessee, 67-66, on Jan. 14 and with No. 19 Arkansas, 75-73, this past Monday night. Senior Jenna Staiti leads the Lady Bulldogs with 14.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. The Aggies are the SEC’s second-best shooting team at 48.3% and second in the league in average margin of victory.

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