ATLANTA — Kentucky senior banger Josh Harrellson came to the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a simple objective.
"This is my last go-around," he said, "and I want to leave it all in Atlanta. ... Don't have any regrets."
After UK's 72-58 victory over Alabama on Saturday, Harrellson was succeeding handsomely. He posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, evidence that he more than held his own against Alabama's all-SEC big man JaMychal Green.
"I think I did a good job on him," Harrellson said. "He's one of the best power forwards in the league. He might be the best power forward."
Against Ole Miss on Friday, Harrellson contributed 13 points, meaning the first two games of this SEC Tournament marked a career first: back-to-back double-digit point totals against league competition.
"It's one thing in getting kids that are born on third base and helping them get home," UK Coach John Calipari said. "And it's another thing when kids are outside the stadium trying to get in. Some of it is the environment they were brought up in and some of it is they just are fighting to be a significant player."
Harrellson had it going so well against Alabama that he tried and missed a three-pointer, making him 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in league play this season. He also drove decisively past Green for a layup.
But Florida big man Vernon Macklin noted another aspect of Harrellson's play that should put the Gators on alert.
"He's smart," Macklin said after Florida beat Vanderbilt in the other semifinal. "He knows where their shots are going off at. He's one of those guys not looking to be a scorer. He's going to get rebounds. He's one of the best offensive rebounders in our league."
With Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins spraining ankles late in the victory over Alabama, questions revolved around who might need to step up should either or both not play against Florida.
"'Hoodie' looked real ready yesterday," forward Terrence Jones said in reference to sophomore Jon Hood.
Hood, who hasn't scored and has grabbed just one rebound in the past 10 games, said his confidence level would be good if called upon against Florida.
"I don't know why you all keep asking about my confidence level," he said. "I don't understand that question at all."
'Reed' between the lines
When asked about Lamb and Liggins being injured, Florida Coach Billy Donovan's face took on a skeptical look.
"I would say that they will probably be probable for the game," he said. "And then they'll play. That'd be my guess."
When told that Lamb was on crutches in the UK locker room, Donovan said, "Yeah. I'm sure they'll all be out there playing, pulling a Willis Reed."
That was a reference to Reed's iconic moment for the New York Knicks, limping onto the court and hitting two tone-setting jumpers in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals.
Florida has led only once at halftime in its last six games. The Gators trailed Tennessee 34-29 and Vanderbilt 36-28 here before rallying in the second half.
"We've got a bad habit of seeing how hard we have to play," Erving Walker said.
Said Donovan: "I think they say that because that's my line to them. I say that to those guys all the time. It looks like we're seeing what we've got to do instead of just coming out with great energy."
Darius Miller is UK's hottest offensive player, having scored in double figures in eight straight games. In that span, he's made 45 of 86 shots (18 of 37 from three-point range). Florida's answer to that is Kenny Boynton. In two SEC Tournament games, he's made 13 of 27 shots (7-for-16 from beyond the arc) and scored 46 points. ... UK and Florida split SEC Tournament titles in 2004 and 2005 with the Cats winning the first year and the Gators the second.