Kentucky began their SEC Tournament run with a comfortable 62-49 victory over a tired looking Georgia side. Next up for the Wildcats is No. 9 seed Alabama, a team that should provide a more rigorous test of the Wildcats championship winning credentials.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Don’t go cold
Alabama beat No. 1 seed Auburn in what has to be seen as an upset on Friday, despite the fact that the Crimson Tide has now beaten the Tigers twice this season. It was a strange and bizarre game in many regards as Auburn looked to be rolling to a comfortable victory as they went into the locker rooms up by 10 points.
Then the Tigers came out in the second half colder than ice.
Auburn missed everything for the first 10 minutes after halftime. They saw Alabama compile a 28-3 run as Auburn didn’t hit a single field goal after the break until there was 9:48 to fo in the game. They went 0-of-13 from the field over that span, including being 0-of-7 from behind the arc. It was a shockingly bad run, one that Kentucky can’t afford to duplicate if the Wildcats are to make the title game.
Stop Collin Sexton
After Georgia and Yante Maten, the Wildcats now get to take on another team that is dominated by the play of one particular player. This time the Wildcats will need to show that they can shut down a hyper-talented point guard, with a potential top 5 NBA draft pick point guard manning the floor for the Crimson Tide.
Collin Sexton has been great for Alabama all season, but he played at a different level against the Tigers. Sexton scored 31 points on the day, hitting a career-high six three-pointers to show that he has the ability to shoot from range to go along with his outstanding dribble-drive game. He was huge during the Crimson Tide’s second-halfT surge, netting four shots from downtown as part of that run. The Kentucky guards need to sit on Sexton, denying him space to shoot and force the other Alabama players to step up and win the game.
Keep up the defensive intensity
Kentucky has won exactly two games this season when the ‘Cats have been held under 70 points. The first was a scrappy and unimpressive 66-61 win over Georgia back in December. The second was this clash with Georgia in the SEC Tournament and it had a very different feel.
In this game – after the stretch at the end of the first half when Kentucky went on an 8-0 run – the Wildcats felt comfortable and in control. The offensive explosion never came to push Kentucky over the 70 point barrier, but if never felt like it needed to. Kentucky played with the sort of quiet determination and confidence we have wanted to see all year, especially when on defense. Georgia simply had no answer for what Kentucky put in front of their own basket, with the final score being telling.
If the Wildcats can play with the same level of defensive intensity against Alabama then they will win.