LSU, Georgia meet in intriguing conference matchup


Arkansas forward Bobby Portis (10) scores in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Willie Cauley-Stein

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein celebrates near the end of regulation in an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. Kentucky won 89-86 in overtime. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

UConn Florida Basketball

Florida head coach Billy Donovan talks with his players in the huddle during an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. UConn won 63-59. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Brad McClenny) THE INDEPENDENT FLORIDA ALLIGATOR OUT, MAGS OUT

South Carolina LSU Basketball

LSU Tigers head coach Nikki Caldwell, left, and South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley embrace on the court following an NCAA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. South Carolina won 75-51. (AP Photo/The Advocate, Hilary Scheinuk) MAGS OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT; NO FORNS; LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT (INCLUDING GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT, 225, 10/12, INREGISTER, LBI CUSTOM); MANDATORY CREDIT

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Here are a few things to watch heading into the second week of the Southeastern Conference basketball season:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Georgia at LSU: Both of these teams are seen as potential NCAA tournament contenders after faring well in nonconference action, but they are also both trying to bounce back after losing their conference openers. Georgia lost 79-75 at home to Arkansas on Tuesday. LSU fell 74-67 in overtime at Missouri on Thursday. LSU has the SEC’s leading scorer in Jarell Martin and one of the nation’s top shot blockers in Jordan Mickey.

LOOKING AHEAD: Can Florida recover in conference play?: Florida (8-6) already has lost twice as many games as it did all of last season, when it went 36-3 and advanced to the Final Four. Billy Donovan’s track record suggests Florida will improve as the season wears on, and the Gators provided reason for hope Wednesday by winning their SEC opener 72-68 at South Carolina to snap the Gamecocks’ seven-game winning streak. “The thing that was encouraging to me was it felt like we battled and fought as a group, collectively, together as a team,” Donovan said. “That was, for me, a step in the right direction I thought for this group.”

PLAYER TO WATCH: Arkansas continues to look like one of the few teams that could challenge Kentucky’s dominance in the SEC this season. One important reason is the play of Bobby Portis, the 6-foot-11 sophomore forward who is averaging 17.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He was terrific in the Razorbacks’ SEC opener against Georgia, scoring 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field in a 79-75 win.

KEY STATS: Undefeated No. 1 Kentucky had its first real scare earlier this week, needing overtime to beat a surprising Mississippi team. But even with that close game, the Wildcats still lead the country in scoring margin, winning games by an average of 25.7 points. Kentucky is also allowing just 50.6 points per game, which is tied with Virginia for tops in the nation.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: South Carolina earned its first No. 1 ranking in school history this season and remains atop the polls, thanks largely to a defense that has allowed only one opponent to shoot over 40 percent from the field.


Compiled by Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi.