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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Around the SEC: Pivotal Border Battle headlines weekend slate

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Sophomore F Solomon Washington (13) blocks Kentucky G Rob Dillingham’s (0) overtime layup during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024 at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

South Carolina at Georgia

Saturday, Feb. 3 — Stegeman Coliseum — Athens, Georgia

12 p.m. on SEC Network

Coming off of a statement win over No. 5 Tennessee, South Carolina comes into the game as hot as any team in the country. However, it is faced with a Georgia team that has already beaten it 74-69 this year. To rectify that loss, the Gamecocks will need their leading scorer, junior guard Meechie Johnson, to step up. After starting off the season blazing, Johnson has hit a bit of a cold stretch averaging only 6.3 points per game over the last four games. Stabilizing his shot from beyond the arc will heavily shift the tide toward South Carolina’s favor.

Georgia’s point production is strongly bolstered by its backcourt with its top four leading scorers all being guards. Junior RJ Melendez is fresh off his best performance of the season, getting to 35 points off a highly efficient scoring performance against Florida. Combined with his hounding defense, Melendez is an X-factor whose play will dictate the Bulldogs’ performance.

South Carolina plays at a plodding pace which leads to opponents attempting a league-low 56.1 field goals a game against them. Georgia needs to be uptempo with its offense to combat this deficiency. This has classic trap game potential which bodes poorly for South Carolina.

Prediction: Georgia 74, South Carolina 73

No. 16 Auburn at Ole Miss

Saturday, Feb. 3 — The Pavilion at Ole Miss — Oxford, Mississippi

5 p.m. on SEC Network

Currently on a two-game losing streak, Auburn looks to stop its slide against Ole Miss. Star junior forward Johni Broome is a menace in the paint and will look to punish the Rebels’ soft interior defense. Ole Miss should consider giving extended playing time to senior Jamarion Sharp to provide more defensive resistance. Leading the league by a wide margin with 2.6 blocks per game, Sharp gives the Rebels the true rim protector that they’ll need. Junior G Chad Baker-Mazara provides the Tigers with a mismatch with his frame and can give them another shooting threat.

To avenge its previous blowout loss versus Auburn, Ole Miss will need its senior G Matthew Murrell to put on a better performance. Scoring only 8 points on poor efficiency the last time they played, Murrell should look towards more off-ball movement when hunting his shot. If Murrell can’t get going, the Rebels should let junior Jaylen Murray take the reins. Averaging 19.3 points in his last three games, Murray can give Ole Miss a shot if he continues to shoot the lights out.

Prediction: Auburn 80, Ole Miss 74

No. 5 Tennessee at No. 10 Kentucky

Saturday, Feb. 3 — Rupp Arena — Lexington, Kentucky

7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Despite the disappointing loss against South Carolina, senior Dalton Knecht put on a great individual performance for Tennessee. Knecht has been one of the best players in the country, averaging an astounding 31.8 points over his last six games with his season average of 20.1 points per game leading the SEC. The Volunteers have been blessed, being able to combine his scoring prowess with the passing wizardry of junior Zakai Zeigler. While not the team’s best shooter, Zeigler averages five assists per game which leads the SEC. His command of the offense will need to be exact to win.

On the other hand, Kentucky has its own star guard in senior Antonio Reeves. A highly efficient scorer, Reeves is fourth in the league with 19.5 points per game on nearly 50-40-90 splits. The battle between Reeves and Knecht will prove essential in determining the outcome of the match. The Wildcats’ offense is a well-oiled machine, leading the SEC with a 49.1% field goal percentage and a 40.2% 3-point percentage. This is due to having a tremendous option behind its leading scorer with freshman Rob Dillingham. Able to catch fire at any moment, Tennessee will be tasked with containing the freshman wonder. These two are a big reason why Kentucky is second in the league with 88.5 points per game and will prove to be the Volunteers’ downfall.

Prediction: Kentucky 86, Tennessee 81

Mississippi State at No. 24 Alabama

Saturday, Feb. 3 — Coleman Coliseum — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

7:30 p.m. on SEC Network
The only team with a better offense than the Wildcats? That would be Alabama whose 89.7 points per game lead the entire country. Their leader is senior Mark Sears with his 20.0 points per game being tied for second in the league with Texas A&M’s very own junior G Wade Taylor IV. The Crimson Tide isn’t a one-man show, however, with three other players scoring in double figures. A team that likes to push it down the floor, Alabama hopes to simply run Mississippi State out of the game with its highly effective five-out offense.

The Bulldogs will be the ones tasked to slow their roll. The duo of senior Tolu Smith and freshman Josh Hubbard are stars, with both averaging more than 15 points per game. The combination of Smith’s interior presence with Hubbard’s quick-paced shiftiness will need to be locked in if they have any hopes of stopping Alabama.

Prediction: Alabama 89, Mississippi State 71

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About the Contributor
Eric Liu
Eric Liu, Sports Writer
Eric is a sophomore computer science major from Houston, TX. He is also double minoring in English and statistics. While at The Battalion, Eric has covered football, men's basketball, baseball, tennis, swim & dive and equestrian.
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