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This week(end) in the SEC: No. 7 Mississippi State faces No. 16 Kentucky as conference play continues

The Bulldogs will have their hands full against the Wildcats in the only battle between two ranked teams on the Sunday slate. But all 14 teams of the SEC are in action, with some matchups nationally televised. Read on for details.

Four-time SEC Freshman of the Week Rhyne Howard looks to lead the Kentucky Wildcats to an upset victory over Mississippi State in SEC play. (Shown: Howard at the Jordan Brand Classic National Girls Teams All-Star game at the the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 2018.)
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Welcome to SEC Sunday!

All 14 teams are in action, two games are nationally televised and there is one battle between two feisty ranked teams each vying for conference and national dominance. But three other ranked SEC teams are looking to prove their mettle against unranked opponents, while the unranked contenders at the top of the standings are looking to put numbers in front of their names.

SEC competition began Thursday, and here are the results:

No. 7 Mississippi State secured a commanding 93-69 victory over Arkansas. Senior Jordan Danberry scored a game-high 26 points in the win, but the Bulldogs’ defensive production was even more impressive: Teaira McCowan grabbed an insane 22 rebounds in 25 minutes of play.

No. 16 Kentucky blew out Vanderbilt, 77-55. As has been the case in many a game this season, freshman Rhyne Howard put on a show. In this one, the four-time Freshman of the Week scored a team-high 16 points, dished 7 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds.

No. 10 Tennessee eked out a 78-69 win over Auburn thanks to a strong third quarter. Meme Jackson, who has been a force to be reckoned with all season, scored a game-high 27 points for the Lady Vols.

Georgia got a respectable 63-50 win over LSU. Senior Caliya Robinson was the game-high scorer in the win with 16 points.

Missouri snagged a commanding 78-55 victory over Ole Miss behind Amber Smith’s team-high 18 points. However, as has been the case multiple times this season, a dominant Ole Miss player shined in a loss. This time out it was Crystal Allen, who scored a game-high 25 points.

Alabama got away with a 74-67 win over Florida after losing the first quarter by 17 points. Bama won every quarter thereafter, and junior forward Jasmine Walker was a big part of that, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 6 rebounds.

No. 23 South Carolina escaped with a three-point win over No. 21 Texas A&M on the road. Te’a Cooper was a major part of the 60-57 victory, with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The win bodes well for South Carolina’s prospects in the conference and in the AP rankings.

Biggest games of the SEC Sunday slate

Conference play continues today, with the following key matchups:

No. 23 South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-5)

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, SC

How to tune in: ESPNU

Need to know: The Gamecocks may be on the AP top-25 list, but their season has not been any more impressive than Alabama’s. Both have similar records, and both are battling in the middle of the SEC standings. However, South Carolina has the edge, just coming off its first defeat of a ranked team this season three days ago, while Alabama will be facing its first ranked opponent in the Gamecocks.

No. 10 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (12-1) vs. Missouri Tigers (12-3)

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, TN

How to tune in: ESPN2

Need to know: Both teams enter this one on four-game win streaks, but the Tigers will be out for blood against the Lady Vols, if for no other reason than to climb back into the top-25; they were ranked No. 23 just four weeks ago. But a win over a team with senior guard Meme Jackson won’t come easy. The former Player of the Week seems to shine brightest in big moments, so the ESPN2 stage will provide Jackson the perfect opportunity to shoot her way into a SportsCenter highlight, if not into the minds of WNBA teams seeking to shore up their squads in this year’s draft.

No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-1) vs. No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (14-1)

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starksville, MS

How to tune in: SEC Network

Need to know: If ever there was a game that should be televised nationally on ESPN2, it is this battle between two of the best ranked teams in the SEC. Kentucky is 14-1 for the season and has beaten one ranked team (then-No. 17 South Florida on Nov. 22); the Wildcats’ only loss of the season was to then-No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 9 by just five points. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is 13-1 for the season and its only loss was to then-No. 7 Oregon on Dec. 18, 82-74. But the Bulldogs get the edge in this one because they have beaten two ranked teams — an 18-point blowout on the road of then-No. 10 Texas on Dec. 2, and a five-point defeat of then-No. 18 Marquette on Dec. 6. But this game will be a must-see because of the battle between the Bulldogs’ rebound maven, senior Teaira McCowan, who is averaging a double-double for the season with 16.6 points and 13.2 rebounds, and the Wildcats’ freshman guard Rhyne Howard, who is averaging 17.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and has received Freshman of the Week honors four times. So the two big questions for this matchup are: 1) Can McCowan’s defense slow the feisty frosh? 2) Or will Howard’s speed tire the Bulldogs’ big?

Click here to review times and viewing information for the other four games of the day.

Elsewhere in the SEC

  • The SEC Player of the Week for Week 8 is Crystal Allen from Ole Miss. A career-high 34 points against North Florida — “the most points scored by any SEC player this season” — on 11-of-17 shooting and 9-of-15 from three-point range sealed the deal. Congrats, Crystal! What a way to sparkle.
  • The SEC Freshman of the Week for Week 8 is Auburn’s Brooke Moore, who scored a career-high 23 points in the Tigers’ 83-50 win over Alabama State last week. “Her 23 points marked the highest scoring total for an Auburn player so far this season,” and the frosh also set a career-high in three-point shooting by making five in the same game. Tigers fans: “Moore, please.”

Click here for more on SEC women’s basketball.