Cats to face Tide in SEC Tournament Quarterfinals


University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari yells at his team during the first half of UK’s 68-66 win over UNC on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 in Rupp Arena. Photo by Ed Matthews

The Cats know their first opponent in their postseason quest.

Trailing by 18 points with less than 13 minutes to play in the game, Alabama rallied to defeat South Carolina 68-63 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday. The Tide trailed 34-52 before going on a 17-4 run to cut the lead to five in just over a five-minute span.

UK (29-2, 14-2 SEC) defeated Alabama 66-55 on Feb. 9, but not before the Tide cut the lead to six with 7:46 to go in the game. The Cats were paced by a pair of double-doubles from freshmen DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. Cousins poured in 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Wall scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

In addition to the two big statistical performances from Cousins and Wall was the hustle of sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins. The 6-foot-6 guard from Chicago scored eight points and brought down seven rebounds, but his energy helped lift the Cats to the win.

On Friday afternoon, the young Cats will play their first game of the SEC Tournament, looking to finish the season by winning nine-straight games and in the process be crowned SEC Tournament champions and NCAA Tournament champions.

It was Alabama’s second defeat of South Carolina in just over a week. On South Carolina’s Senior Day March 3, Alabama defeated the Gamecocks 79-70 while outrebounding them by 20. Thursday afternoon’s game wasn’t as dominant on the rebounding end by Alabama, snagging only two more boards, but their ability to rally from a big deficit will be something the Cats must be wary of.

UK has come under criticism recently with their inability to finish off opponents definitively once building large leads. Against Florida in their last game of the year, the Cats allowed their once 18-point lead be cut to two.

Junior forward Patrick Patterson said if UK gets up by 18 they need to try and push it even higher, if players are tired they need to come out and they can’t let up. Wall agreed, saying that by letting teams get on runs like that they’re allowing them to feel like they have a chance to win.

The game will be played at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network.