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Sacha Killeya-Jones answering the call for UK Basketball

The Cats needed someone to step up, and Sacha did just that in St. Louis.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There’s a lot of truth to the old adage “next man up.”

When UK forward Jarred Vanderbilt tweaked his ankle with the SEC Tournament looming, Big Blue Nation felt a lot of angst. Where would the production and energy Vando provided come from?

Enter Sacha Killeya-Jones.

SKJ had seen his playing time reduced to almost none with the emergence of Vanderbilt, and John Calipari settled on a rotation that didn’t include Jones.

But when his number was finally called, SKJ was ready.

In the semifinal win over Alabama, Jones gave the Cats six points, five rebounds and two blocks off the bench in Kentucky’s 86-63 win Saturday.

In the championship game versus Tennessee, SKJ had two points, three rebounds and a pair of blocks to help UK win 77-72. His only basket came with the Cats clinging to a 64-62 lead late in the game off a two handed put back slam to help Kentucky take control of the game.

He also had a huge block with two minutes left to preserve UK’s four-point lead.

That had John Calipari sounding like a proud father in his postgame presser.

“How about Sacha? Look, P.J. and Sacha and even Quade — Quade did some good stuff today. But Sacha just had to wait his turn, and he was ready for it. Big play; that stick back was huge.”

Kevin Knox was also happy to see Sacha finally getting his chance to step up with Vanderbilt out, and it’s helped make Kentucky a very dangerous team.

“Sacha played really well this whole tournament. P.J. played well. Wenyen played well. Everyone stepped up and tried to do something that Jarred couldn’t. We wanted to win this for him because we know how much he really wanted to be on the court.”

With the NCAA tournament set to tip off, look for Jones to continue his new found confidence and strong play as the Cats begin their search for national title number nine. He’ll need to in a big way if Kentucky ends up playing Arizona in the Round of 32.

Those west-coast Wildcats feature star center Deandre Ayton, who has scored 32 points in two straight games. Sacha may not start, but he’s going to have to play big minutes, especially if Vanderbilt is still out.

But first. the Kentucky Wildcats have to get past the Davidson Wildcats on Thursday to begin NCAA Tournament play.