DULUTH, Ga. — Watching Kentucky was a little case of deja blue for Auburn Coach Nell Fortner.
Last March, her aggressive, up-tempo Auburn team shot to No. 8 in the national rankings and was a second seed in the NCAA Tournament.
This Kentucky team, which topped Auburn 65-54 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday, reminds Fortner of her past team.
"He just took our playbook and put it into his team," Fortner joked, speaking of UK Coach Matthew Mitchell.
It's a formula for success and she said the Cats will have their share of that when the NCAA Tournament starts.
Fortner said she thinks UK will be a problem for teams.
"Boy they're going to be surprised," she said of those future opponents yet to be named.
Kentucky's "style is so fast," Fortner said. "If they go up against certain teams in certain conferences that don't play that style at all, it's going to be very hard for that team to adjust to them. ... It's going to be harder for a team that doesn't play that tempo."
The only knock on UK is their lack of post size, she said.
"When teams maybe play them a little different defensively or have more mobile big people, that might affect them," she said.
Honored and weirded out?
The tournament public address announcer did something unexpected in the Cats' pre-game introductions.
As she announced Victoria Dunlap, she said "SEC Player of the Year." As she called A'dia Mathies, she said "SEC Freshman of the Year."
Then when she introduced Matthew Mitchell, she dubbed him "SEC Coach of the Year."
Clearly the awards, which were handed out Tuesday, are still too new for the players and coach.
The two players made funny faces as they were introduced and their teammates smiled big.
"I didn't know they were going to say it," Mathies said afterward. "I was just waiting for, 'the 5-9 freshman from Louisville, Kentucky.' When they said that, it put a smile on my face, though. It helped us all out in being aggressive out there playing today."
Mitchell just said it would take some getting used to.
"We didn't know they were going to say it because they've never said it before (about us)," Mitchell said. "We didn't have any idea about that one."
UK was coming off a bad loss at Auburn in its last regular-season game. Dunlap had just four points in that loss and Mitchell let her hear about it.
He regretted that later.
"I got upset with her and down on her," Mitchell said. "I didn't help her last Sunday when she was struggling mightily."
Before Friday's quarterfinals, Mitchell said he pulled Dunlap aside and told her that he would be her biggest cheerleader that day, her biggest fan, and would encourage her as much as he could.
Dunlap responded with one of her more complete games of the season (24 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals).