The Kentucky Wildcats picked up a solid revenge victory in the opening round of the SEC Tournament as they dominated Alabama 73-55. This now means that the team gets another chance for revenge as they take on Tennessee in the semi-final on Saturday.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Bring the defense
In the two regular season matchups between Kentucky and Tennessee it was the team with the better defensive performance that won the day.
In the first meeting between the two schools at Rupp Arena the Wildcats held the Vols to 40.2 percent from the field as UK won 86-69. In the return match in Knoxville it was Tennessee that was the dominant team when defending, holding Kentucky to just 31.6 percent shooting and rolling out as 71-52 winners.
This rubber match is on a neutral court in Nashville and there is plenty on the line. The two teams are playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and with LSU having been dismissed on the other side of the bracket there is a feeling that this game could be more important than the title game itself.
Kentucky can beat Tennessee, but the defense has to be on point. The Wildcats need to contain the Vols best players and limit their three-point shooting to take home a massive win.
Protect Travis Reid
The matchup that sees Reid face off against Tennessee superstar Grant Williams is a fascinating one. Williams did practically nothing when the two teams first met during the season, but he went off in the return match in Tennessee. The difference between the two games was simply the presence of Reid and his ability to contain the scoring power of the Vols best player.
Reid had missed five games in a row before returning against Alabama in a more central role than expected. Most thought that he would play maybe 10 minutes or so to get his legs under him, but instead Reid went for eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
It is vital for the Wildcats to get Reid up and playing again at his best level, but they need not do so at the expense of re-injuring him in a big time matchup against Williams. Expect Kentucky to roll a collection of different defenders into the path of the Tennessee forward here.
Stop Jordan Bone
As good as Williams has been this season it is Bone that has been the difference when Kentucky has played Tennessee.
In two games the Vols point guard has scored 46 points on 19-of-28 from the field while throwing in nine assists for good measure. Even when Kentucky beat Tennessee by 17 the Wildcats struggled to control the rival point guard.
This is a little surprising given the play of Ashton Hagans at times this season and his ability to shut down rival guards. The Wildcats will need a plus level game from Hagans here to stop the Tennessee scorer and creator from keeping the Vols in touching distance.