In last weekend’s victory over No. 1 Tennessee, Reid Travis was not Kentucky’s leading rebounder. Three teammates scored more points.
But by standing up to the physical challenge presented by Tennessee forward Grant Williams, Travis got credit for making a telling contribution.
“Williams, he’s really tortured this conference with his physical play,” UK associate coach Kenny Payne said Monday. “He dominated this conference, not just this year (but) last year as well.
“Reid Travis, that fits right into his hands.”
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Travis declined to take a bow for Williams being limited to a season-low four shots.
“I’d like to take all the credit,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we threw a lot of players at him. I can’t say I was sitting on an island with him. We had guys come over and double-team on rotations. The guards even dug down, and things like that.”
Travis described UK’s plan against Williams as fronting him in the post, matching his physical style and moving him out of the paint as much as possible.
Payne pointed out that these kind of contributions do not show up in a box score. There’s no credit for a triple-double for such things as fronting the post, boxing out and being an immovable impediment.
“I’m fine about it,” Travis said of his contribution going largely unnoticed. “People who know basketball (and) watch basketball, I feel, like, they have an appreciation for it. At the end of the day, it’s about us winning games and helping us get better as a team.”
One such person is Payne. “I can’t imagine Reid Travis not being on this team, and what he’s meant,” he said.
As for numbers, Travis is averaging his fewest points (11.6) and minutes (28.3) since his freshman year at Stanford. His 51.9-percent shooting is his poorest since that same 2014-15 season.
“But his impact on the team is more,” Payne said. “Because now you’re winning against the No. 1 team in the country. … It’s not centered around you getting 20 (points). You’re playing with other great players. You’re learning to sacrifice to be a great teammate.”
The Tennessee game marked the second time Calipari has said a physically taxing effort meant Travis needed an intravenous treatment as a precaution. The game against South Carolina’s Chris Silva was the first.
That was, uh, an exaggeration, Travis said.
Of how he gets over these exhausting matchups, Traivs said, “A Gatorade and a cold tub is usually all it takes.”
While Calipari has dismissed winning the SEC regular-season championship as meaningless, Payne said it would “mean a lot” for the current UK team.
“These kids need to know they are champions,” he said. “That they are the gold standard of this conference.”
And why is that important? “When we get into the NCAA Tournament, every game is going to be intense …,” Payne said. “Every possession matters.”
Payne said he was proud of how PJ Washington has played: 20-plus points in four straight games, and seven of the last eight.
Payne cited how Calipari has continually pushed Washington for more, more, more. Most recently, the UK coach told Washington he needed to get his attempts to rebound up from 60 percent to 90 percent.
“As the world has given him all this praise, Coach Cal is saying, ‘I need more …,’” Payne said.
And if Washington gets to 90 percent, what are the chances of Calipari moving the bar up to 95 percent or higher?
“No question about it,” Payne said. “If he gets to 100, it’s going to be 105 percent.”
Four against one
To counter UK’s four “bigs,” Missouri has 6-10 sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon.
“Jeremiah will compete,” Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin said. “There’s no questions about it. He’ll play hard. He’ll bring the game to them as well.”
Foul trouble has affected Tilmon’s productivity. He’s averaging 10.9 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds. But he has also averaged a foul every 7.1 minutes. He has fouled out of four of Missouri’s 12 SEC games.
Tilmon fouled out in 15 minutes of play at Ole Miss on Saturday.
In the final minutes of Kentucky’s victory over No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday, fans began chanting “overrated.” Calipari motioned for the chanting to stop.
“We respect our opponents,” Payne said. “Coach Cal really respects Coach (Rick) Barnes. We’re Kentucky. We don’t have to do that. We don’t have to talk about a team being overrated.
“They do it to us. But we’re not going to do that to them.”
Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge will call the game for ESPN.