The University of Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 73-55 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville , TN. The win puts the Wildcats one step closer to their 5th straight SEC tournament title and a potential one seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Most importantly, it was the return of big man Reid Travis after missing the last few weeks to a knee injury. While a few of the Big Blue Nation worried if Travis would come back, head coach John Calipari’s timeline never wavered. Coach Cal was firm that Travis would return for the SEC tournament and he did, scoring 8 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 23 minutes.
In avenging an early conference season loss to the Crimson Tide, the Wildcats depended on their bench. While Travis coming in with the second unit helped, Nick Richards (9 points, 3 rebounds), Immanuel Quickley (12 points on 3-3 shooting from three point range) and Jemarl Baker (6 points) played very well. As they have been for the last two months, the Cats were very balanced and played tough defense, limiting Alabama to 30.4% shooting (17-56), blocking 11 Tide shots and notching 8 steals.
Tyler Herro lead the way with 20 points and 6 rebounds and PJ Washington scored a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Ashton Hagans had 6 assists, to only one turnover. Keldon Johnson was hampered by foul trouble and shot 1-7 from the field and scored 4 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in just 22 minutes. Kentucky lead for over 35 minutes of the game and kept Alabama at arm’s length for most of the second half, weathering each Crimson Tide run.
Reid Travis’ return couldn’t have come at a better time. PJ Washington was able to move around more freely and they were able to return to the high-low/inside-out game that worked so well for Kentucky when the Wildcats won 15-16 games. The Cats were more cohesive on the defensive end and the ball moved well on offense. Certainly, there are things to work on, there were too many offensive droughts and unforced turnovers. As of this moment, the Cats are awaiting the winner of Tennessee and Mississippi State. Whoever the Cats get, Coach Cal and his staff will plenty to work on with the short turnaround.
Welcome back, Reid Travis