Is Reid Travis done with his knee brace?
Reid Travis continued to show Saturday that his five-year wait to play in the NCAA Tournament has been worth it. His steady and dependable play — made even more important by the absence of PJ Washington — helped Kentucky advance to the Sweet 16.
It also moved UK Coach John Calipari to salute Travis.
“What a pleasure it’s been to coach him,” Calipari said after Kentucky beat Wofford 62-56. “He is truly a professional in how he deals with everything. From training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he’s supposed to be on time.”
Visitors to UK practices have commented on how Travis pays total attention to coaching, Calipari said. And while he must urge other players to give more effort, Calipari said that’s never the case with Travis.
When told of Calipari’s comments, Travis said, “I think that is one of the kindest things Coach has ever said about me. It makes the work I do every day really mean something to hear him say something like that.
“It’s kind of touching. It took a lot for me to come to Kentucky and decide to play another year of college basketball. (The reason I did) was nothing more than I wanted to play in games like this, and bring it every day and try to be my best.”
Travis, a graduate transfer who never played in the NCAA Tournament for Stanford, was a rebound short of a double-double in UK’s opening-round victory over Abilene Christian (18 points and nine rebounds). Against Wofford, he got the double-double with team-highs in points (14) and rebounds (11).
“Every time we needed a basket to separate, we were throwing it to him,” Calipari said.
Wofford competing to the final buzzer tested UK’s ability to finish a game. The Cats passed the test.
“We just had that Tennessee game in the back of our minds,” said Tyler Herro, referencing UK’s stumbling finish in the loss to the Vols in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals seven days earlier. “We didn’t finish that, and we learned from that. We learned how to finish games.”
Twice in the game, Wofford called timeouts to stem UK’s momentum. Both times a television timeout followed within 25 and 43 seconds.
That raised a question: What could be said in the second timeout that wasn’t covered in the first?
“There’s not much more than us yelling back and forth at each other trying to get it right,” Travis said. “Coach kind of leaves it to us (in) that second timeout.”
Auburn and Wofford
Coincidentally, Wofford’s 8-for-27 three-point shooting exactly matched how accurately Auburn shot in its second game against Kentucky.
Ashton Hagans said there was a telling difference in Kentucky defending the three-point attacks of Wofford and Auburn.
“With Auburn, it was more speed, more get up and down the court,” he said. “But with this team, you’ve got to stay alert at all times. They’re moving in half-court sets.”
UK and K.C.
UK has played more NCAA Tournament games than any program. Kansas City, Mo., has been host to more NCAA Tournament games than any other city. Friday’s Sweet 16 game in the Midwest Region will mark the first time UK has played a NCAA Tournament game there.
When asked how he processed that oddity, Travis said, “I don’t. I figure it’s a nice footnote for the game.”
Wofford players took pride in playing Kentucky competitively down to the final seconds even though star guard Fletcher Magee made only four of 17 shots and failed to reach double-digit points for only the third time all season.
“Wofford definitely made a statement,” teammate Storm Murphy said. “We are a great team, and we have a great culture and a great program and a winning one.”
A Kentuckian comes off the bench for Wofford. Tray Hollowell grew up in Hopkinsville as a UK fan.
“I remember John Wall, Anthony Davis,” he said Friday. “Those years were really big.”
As he played for University Heights Academy, Hollowell shifted from UK fan to player with his own basketball agenda.
His past and present collided in the UK-Wofford second-round game.
Of people in Christian County, he said, “I hope they are for me. I know my family is for me. Everybody else, they’ll probably be rooting for me and rooting for (UK) at the same time.”
Hollowell expected to be taken aback by playing against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
“When I step out on the court, it is going to be, ‘Wow, I’m out here against Kentucky,’” he said.
Hollowell played six minutes Saturday and finished with one rebound and one steal.