NASHVILLE — Sunday's Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game will have a be-careful-what-you-wish for element.
After Kentucky beat Arkansas 84-67 two weeks ago, Bobby Portis said he wished the Razorbacks would play UK in Nashville.
"I got my wish," Portis said with a big smile after Arkansas beat Georgia 60-49 in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday.
When asked why he sat in the Rupp Arena interview area on Feb. 28 and wished for another game against Kentucky, Portis said, "Because they whipped us. We were down 31 (points) at one point. That was my first time being down 30 here as a Razorback. It's just something that we have to do. ... It was hard. They whupped us on the glass. They beat us in transition. That's something that doesn't happen to us."
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In Lexington, Portis lamented how Arkansas did not play its pressing/trapping style against Kentucky. That's what the Hogs intend to do on Sunday.
"Just speed the game up and play our style of basketball," Portis said. "Just play Razorback basketball. The fastest 40 minutes."
Kentucky led 42-26 at halftime against Arkansas.
"No, we did not play the fastest 40 minutes," Portis said. "We played the fastest 20 minutes."
The idea of speeding up a deep and athletic team like Kentucky seems counter intuitive.
"It'll be a fun game, then," Portis said. "Our team likes to score points, 80 or 90 points a game. I don't really think keeping the game in the 50s or 60s is going to make the game any better."
In the semifinals against Georgia, Portis had his lowest-scoring game of the season. He made only one of 14 shots and scored four points.
"Tomorrow is going to be different," he said. "It's going to be a new day tomorrow."
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson noted how Portis contributed 12 rebounds.
"The guy's been so consistent," Anderson said. "He's been like a machine. But, the beauty of it is, look at all the other things he did."
The Arkansas coach noted another factor.
"We've got to match their intensity," he said. "I thought last time we played them, their intensity was at a different level. We've got to match that."
As with several UK opponents, Portis suggested it was plausible that his team could beat Kentucky.
"Oh, there's no doubt in my mind," he said.
UK's victory over Auburn included technical fouls on freshmen Tyler Ulis and Trayvon Reed, plus a bench warning on Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl.
"You knew coming into the game it was going to be like that," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "Especially since their big guy (Cinmeon Bowers) couldn't play. They're all smaller than us. So they were going to have to push and shove and be a little dirty."
Although 17 inches shorter than Reed, Ulis did not back down.
"He just walked over and kind of pushed me," Ulis said. "I pushed him back."
UK players liked commenting on Ulis' take-no-guff attitude.
"That's his heart right there," Cauley-Stein said. "His heart is as big as a 7-footer's. He just showed it right there.
"He's not to be messed with. I was glad he did it."
Walking the walk
Few UK opponents have been more productive than Auburn guard Antoine Mason. He scored 23 points against the Cats on Saturday. His 29 points in Rupp Arena last month were the most scored against UK this season.
In two games against the Cats, Mason made 16 of 30 shots (eight of 10 from three-point range) and showed no fear.
"Dude competes his butt off," said Cauley-Stein, who added his puzzlement about Mason's trash talking. "He's always talking mess. 'Dude, you're down 20. Why are you talking to me?'"
Player of the Year
Portis acknowledged his surprise at being voted SEC Player of the Year by the league's coaches.
"Oh, no doubt," he said. "... I was kind of shocked. (Kentucky) had five or six players playing well like all year long. Their team gives total team effort."
Georgia Coach Mark Fox said he cast his Player of the Year vote for Portis.
"Well, he's the best player in the league," Fox said.
'Always a Hog'
Portis committed to Arkansas as a 10th-grader. So Kentucky did not show any recruiting interest.
"I was always a Hog, baby," he said with a laugh. "I was always a Hog."