The Kentucky Wildcats opened their defense of their SEC Tournament crown by overwhelming the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Cats did so with their speed and quickness while holding the Tide to 30% shooting to win 73-55 Friday night in Nashville.
Bridgestone Arena was washed in blue and white, and BBN would not leave disappointed. The Cats got off to a blazing start, jumping out to a 20-9 lead behind the shooting of freshman guard Tyler Herro.
Herro had seven quick points and the Cat defense sped up the Tide, forcing three consecutive turnovers that UK capitalized on. Behind his 11 points and sophomore center Nick Richards seven off the bench, the Cats led at the half 39-29.
Senior forward Reid Travis made his much awaited debut off the bench for the Cats. Travis moved and jumped well and contributed eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action, a great sign for the Cats.
In the second half, it was much of the same. Kentucky locked down the Tide on the defensive end, making life difficult for the Tide shooters by making every pass, shot and drive a chore.
For the game, UK held Alabama to 30% shooting from the field and outscoring them 34-26 to go on to the win. The Cats also blocked 11 Tide shots. Amazing.
Offensively, the Cats were led by Herro’s 20 points, one of three Cats in double figures. Immanuel Quickley had 12 off the bench and Washington added 10. Washington had 12 boards to help UK outrebounded the Tide 42-32.
This was a great win over a team that was fighting for its NCAA Tournament life.
Several Wildcats could be considered for this honor, but I am going with Reid Travis. It cannot be overstated what the forward means to this team. When he is in the game, he does the dirty work around the basket and allows PJ Washington to play out on the floor and create matchup problems, Richards to roam the lane and block shots, and create driving lanes for Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Ashton Hagans with his post play. Travis could be the factor that pushes the Cats to Final-Four level.
The Cats move on to semifinal action Saturday night to face the winner of Tennessee- Mississippi State game in the second game. The opening game will be the Florida Gators, an upset winner over top seeded LSU and the Auburn Tigers, winners over the South Carolina Gamecocks.