Kentucky takes on Tennessee in final home game of the season


Kentucky graduate student forward Nate Sestina and Kentucky freshman sophomore Immanuel Quickley boxes out an Auburn player during the University of Kentucky vs. Auburn men’s basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 73-66 to win the SEC regular season championship. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

Solid performances from Kentucky’s guard trio helped secure its win over Auburn this past Saturday, claiming its 49th SEC regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament. Immanuel Quickley led the way for the trio notching his second career double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

“It feels good, all blessings and glory to God,” Quickley said after the Auburn game. “We’ve been working hard all season and a lot of people doubted us but we believed in ourselves. Stayed true through the process and we got a dub to become regular season champs.”

Even though the Wildcats are already regular season champions, there’s still two more games to go, including Tuesday’s final home game against Tennessee. While it may be easy for Cats fans to look forward to the SEC tournament, as well as March Madness, Tennessee shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Volunteers are coming off a huge win at home against Florida, who is one of the top teams in the conference. John Fulkerson came up big for his team, dropping 22 points while shooting 10-of-15 from the field.

Jordan Bowden is another player for Tennessee to watch out for. Bowden has scored in double digits 13 out of the last 14 games and is the Volunteers’ leading scorer. He dropped 16 on Kentucky in their meeting last month. 

While Kentucky’s guards have been impressive down the stretch, the Cats bench is equally as important to the team. Graduate transfer Nate Sestina came up with 11 huge points, while Keion Brooks played a solid 12 minutes coming off the bench and made some hustle plays that aren’t on the stat sheet against Auburn Saturday.

“The guys stepped up today and coach needed that from us; me, E (Ej Montgomery), Nick (Richards), Keion (Brooks Jr.) and Johnny (Juzang),” Sestina said following the Auburn win. “He’s (John Calipari) just been talking to us about stepping up, and how we can’t just rely on Tyrese (Maxey), Ashton (Hagans), and Immanuel to score all of our points and get stops for us, so it was big for us today.”

The game will also serve as Senior Night for Sestina, Kentucky’s lone senior.

“I’m so happy for how this has all played out for Nate,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “You’re talking about a kid who talked about and dreamed about coming to play at a school like Kentucky. It wasn’t the same path as a lot of our other guys, but he carved out his own journey, and my hope is it’s been everything he hoped it would be.”

Sestina says it’s unreal how quickly his time at Kentucky has flown by.

“It’s something that I couldn’t have asked for. It’s everything that you wanted to happen for you,” Sestina said. “To play basketball at a high level, to play for a coach like Coach Cal, to have the teammates that I have and have the fans that we have and the support, it’s been everything to me, it’s been everything to my family.”

Kentucky takes on Tennessee at Rupp Arena this Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN.