RECAP: Cats too much for Tide
Kentucky avenges January loss to Alabama, wins 73-55 in SEC Tournament rematch. Tyler Herro scores 20 points, Reid Travis turns in solid performance in return from injury.
Kentucky had to wait more than two months to get it, but the Wildcats avenged one of only three losses in league play with a 73-55 win over Alabama on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Freshman wing Tyler Herro scored a game-high 20 points, sophomore forward PJ Washington delivered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and senior forward Reid Travis turned in a solid performance (8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) in his long-awaited return from a knee injury.
Kentucky (27-5) will play the winner of Friday night's late game -- Tennessee vs. Mississippi State -- on Saturday in the semifinals. Florida will face Auburn in the other semifinal game at Bridgestone Arena.
The Cats broke open a tie game with a 17-2 run midway through the first half and never relinquished the lead.
It was a well-rounded performance for UK. The Cats shot 47 percent from the field while holding Alabama to 30 percent. They blocked 11 shots and outrebounded the Tide 42-32.
"Great defense," UK head coach John Calipari said flatly. "... When you start locking down and guarding, you build your confidence as a basketball team."
In addition to the nice performance from its stars, UK got strong bench play from Immanuel Quickley (12 points, 4-4 FG), Nick Richards (9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block) and Jemarl Baker (6 points).
Alabama (18-15), which may have been playing for one of the final spots in the NCAA Tournament, got 15 points from Alex Reese and 14 points from Donte Hall.
The Crimson Tide's backcourt trio of Davon Ingram, John Petty and Tevin Mack combined for only 14 points on 3-for-18 shooting. Tevin Mack, who hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points in Alabama's 77-75 win on Jan. 5 in Tuscaloosa, went scoreless.
In this Cats Illustrated "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK victory...
Kentucky came out with a businesslike approach and was never challenged in its SEC Tourney opener. As expected, the return of Reid Travis made a big difference. Every other player seems to benefit from his presence on the floor.
Freshmen Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson didn't have much of an impact in their first postseason game. They combined to make only two of their 13 shots from the field. Both ran into foul trouble, recording more fouls (8) than points (6). The Cats will need them to be -- as Calipari likes to say -- "the best versions of themselves" in UK's next game.
There was only one minor hiccup for the Cats in this one, a seven-minute stretch late in the first half in which Bama mounted a 16-7 run to briefly get back into the game. UK will need to avoid those lapses as the competition level rises from this point forward.
Tyler Herro, Kentucky -- The freshman from Milwaukee continued his strong play in the second half of the season with his sixth 20-point scoring performance. He was extremely efficient once again, going 8-of-14 from the field.
BY THE NUMBERS:
0 - Fast-break points for Alabama.
7:59 - Stretch in the second half without a basket for the Crimson Tide.
23-3 - UK's record in the SEC Tournament under John Calipari.
34-18 - Points in the paint advantage for the Cats.
35 - Bench points for UK.
134-25 - UK's all-time record in the SEC Tournament, including a 17-2 mark against Alabama.
"Bottom line is this is a skilled basketball team. We just had to get them to defend." -- UK head coach John Calipari on the difference between the first meeting with Alabama and the rematch.
Kentucky will face the winner of Tennessee vs. Mississippi State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in the semifinals at Bridgestone Arena. The Cats are 42-2 all-time in the SEC semifinals.