Halfway through, a look at the SEC basketball race

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At the midpoint of the SEC basketball regular season, Florida has the conference in something of a headlock, the unbeaten Gators holding a two-game lead on second-place Kentucky. And Billy Donovan’s club is doing it with defense, holding opponents below 70 points in its eight of its nine conference games.

Now the Gators have picked up Chris Walker, the 6-foot-11 freshman whom the NCAA finally ruled eligible in time for his debut Tuesday against Missouri. He had two dunks and two blocks in seven minutes against the Tigers.

Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss on Tuesday gave the Cats sole possession of second place, and the Cats travel to Mississippi State on Saturday, then Auburn on Wednesday. John Calipari’s club has won five of its last six.

Ole Miss sits third with a 6-3 mark, having lost two of its past three games. Those losses were both on the road, 86-70 at Tennessee and 80-64 at UK. The Rebels get Missouri at home on Saturday.

After the top three, there is a logjam. Four teams sit at 5-4. Two are 4-5. Four more are at 3-6. That means 10 of the league’s 14 teams have between three and five wins, and between four and six losses.

Outside of Florida, Vanderbilt is the hottest team in the league. Operating with a depleted roster, Kevin Stallings has put together a four-game win streak that started with road wins at Texas A&M (66-55) and Georgia (59-54). The Commodores then beat Mississippi State 55-49 in Nashville, followed by Wednesday’s 64-60 win over visiting Tennessee at Memorial Gym.

Vandy has Arkansas at home on Saturday. The Razorbacks are 0-4 in league road games this year after going 1-8 last year.

Auburn has picked up some steam. The Tigers have beaten Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina in their past three games. The win over South Carolina came in Columbia. Auburn is at LSU on Saturday.

Alabama is not hot. The disappointing Tide has lost five of its last six games and has failed to break the 60-point mark in its lat three games, all defeats. That 76-59 loss at home to Tennessee last Saturday was particularly alarming.

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Photo of Florida’s Chris Walker by Phil Sandlin/AP.

SEC men’s basketball schedule for Saturday

  • Alabama at Florida 12:00 PM ESPN
  • Kentucky at Mississippi St. 1:30 PM SEC TV
  • South Carolina at Tennessee 3:00 PM ESPNU
  • Arkansas at Vanderbilt 4:00 PM SEC TV
  • Auburn at LSU 4:00 PM SEC TV
  • Missouri at Ole Miss 5:00 PM FSN
  • Texas A&M at Georgia 8:00 PM CSS

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