Kentucky’s overtime loss at Texas A&M in February was memorable. UK players certainly haven’t forgotten.
“They beat us at the end,” Tyler Ulis said of A&M’s 79-77 overtime victory. “We want to make sure we come out and get some get-back.”
Jamal Murray, who helped Ulis lead UK to a semifinal victory over Georgia on Saturday, echoed the sentiment.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said of the SEC Tournament finals Sunday. “We’re looking forward to it. A lot of guys want this game.”
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Kentucky might have a relatively secret weapon. Alex Poythress did not play in the regular-season game. He was sidelined with a knee injury.
“They haven’t seen Alex yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays and how they handle it.”
Poythress made no secret of Kentucky’s desire to play A&M.
“I’m sure everybody on the team wanted to play them again,” he said, “and try to avenge the loss. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a battle.”
They haven’t seen Alex (Poythress) yet, so I’m looking forwardto seeing how he plays and how they handle it.
UK’s Jamal Murray on Texas A&M
A&M forward Jalen Jones spoke of an exciting and competitive final. He, too, used the word “battle” when asked about the championship game.
“I would expect it to be another battle,” he said after the Aggies routed LSU in the other semifinal. “Their guys are very well-coached, and they have a lot of heart and they play with a lot of passion.
“And we play with a lot of heart and passion. I expect a battle.”
Isaac Humphries’ good mood was not dampened when asked about the now-famous technical foul he received at the end of the Texas A&M game. His technical for throwing down the ball on the court inside the final 10 seconds helped A&M win.
The same referee, Pat Adams, called a technical foul in Saturday’s first semifinal when LSU’s Ben Simmons slammed the ball to the court in frustration.
“Did he really?” Humphries said when told of Adams’ call. “I heard something about that.”
Then Humphries quipped, “I bet he doesn’t like Australians.”
Ulis vouched for how well Humphries has gotten over the costly technical foul.
“Honestly, he really wasn’t that upset … ,” Ulis said. “At the time, he was. He kept apologizing and apologizing. But he realized no one was mad at him and we understood. … It happened. We’re past it.”
Of course, a Kentucky-Texas A&M final in the SEC Tournament stirs memories of the game in College Station last month.
The technical on Humphries inspired a basketball debate: How much should referees use discretion in making calls and how much should they go by the letter of the rules?
Author Bob Katz has written a book about officiating entitled The Whistleblower. Katz said the technical foul on Humphries was “pretty spurious.”
Ulis not tired
Ulis played 39 minutes against Georgia. That marked the 12th game he’s played 39 or more minutes this season.
When asked if the minutes were taking a toll, he asked, “For me?”
The reporter confirmed he meant Ulis.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I’m fine. Because we go to the hotel. We don’t do anything but sit around and sleep, get treatment, try to get a massage, and just lay around.
“That’s enough rest for me.”
UK Coach John Calipari saluted Poythress, who scored eight of his 10 points and grabbed both his rebounds in the second half.
“He gave us a goose egg in the first half,” Calipari said. “He now begins to say, ‘OK, let me get this going.’ Well, he’s not done that throughout his career.
“So this was a big day for Alex.”
Freshman Charles Matthews contributed 11 minutes.
“I was happy for Charles,” Calipari said. “He’s been struggling and I’m trying to get him to understand the best version of him is unbelievable defender, sprint the court, slash for baskets, offensive rebound, rebound defensively and fly.”
UK home game?
Texas A&M freshman Admon Gilder welcomed the prospect of a partisan crowd rooting for Kentucky in Sunday’s finals.
“It’ll be good because the crowd is going to be like a home game for Kentucky,” he said. “We’ll be able to play like it’s a NCAA Tournament game.
“Everybody will be expecting Kentucky to win. Therefore, we’ll be coming in with that motivation.”
Calipari noticed that Georgia Coach Mark Fox borrowed something from UK’s playbook last season.
“He platooned,” Calipari said. “ … He totally changed how they were going to play because he knew it was their third game in three days.”
Fox substituted five for five.
“We felt we’d have more continuity if we subbed all five,” he said.
Bid for Georgia?
Georgia will take a 19-13 record into Selection Sunday.
Fox pointed out that Georgia played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country and won 10 regular-season SEC games, plus two in the conference tournament.
“If that’s not enough,” he said, “something’s wrong.”
Calipari vouched for the Bulldogs.
“They should be in,” he said of Georgia. “Vanderbilt should be in this NCAA Tournament.”