Wildcats eye bigger prizes after winning SEC championship

Kentucky clinched its 45th regular-season SEC title with its 83-74 victory Feb. 25 over Vanderbilt, but it has bigger things in mind.

The win moved the Wildcats to 14-0 on the season. With wins in their last two regular-season outings, they will post their third 16-0 conference record since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in the 1991-92 season.

There’s also the matter of retaining what most — if not all — believe will be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced on March 11.

“Every game we play, it’s all about seeding,” coach Jon Calipari said. “And that’s — we are just playing for that.

“I mean, we have won over the years a lot of conference championships and tournament championships, but I’m telling you, my teams have never — that isn’t what we are playing for.

“It’s all about that seed.”

The Wildcats improved to 28-1 overall with their second victory over the Commodores in a two-week span. Kentucky won 69-63 in Nashville on Feb. 11.

The ‘Cats have two games left in the regular-season with their home finale coming up when Georgia visits on March 1. They finish up at Florida on March 4.


NOTES, QUOTES

-Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis had another huge game Feb. 25 against Vanderbilt, scoring a season-high 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, tying teammate Terrence Jones for the second-most among freshmen in school history.

Davis also blocked five shots, giving him 138 and moving him to No. 10 on Kentucky’s career list in less than a season.

Coach John Calipari kidded around with his players after the game in describing Davis’ performance.

“I just told everybody they did what they did, and how good, and I said, ‘You were pretty good, too.’ And the whole team started laughing,” Calipari said. “They thought it was hysterical.”

Davis showed an ability to hit mid-range jump shots as well as dunks and follows in going 10-of-11 from the field.

“I just tried to come out and play hard,” he said, noting the noon tipoff. “Coach said prior to the game that we all were looking sleepy and not ready to play.

“I just didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to prove him right.”

-Kentucky extended its winning streak at home to 51 games with its Feb. 25 victory over Vanderbilt. The streak started with an NIT win in Memorial Coliseum at the end of the 2009 season.

The Wildcats are 50-0 in Rupp Arena under Calipari.

-Kentucky was 32-of-56 from the field against Vanderbilt for a 57.1 percent success rate, the 14th time this season the Wildcats have shot better than 50 percent from the field.


THIS WEEK’S GAMES:

-vs. Georgia, March 1

KEY MATCHUPS: The Bulldogs put only two players in double figures as the Wildcats registered a 57-44 win in Athens on Jan. 24. G Dustin Ware, who has been struggling in February, had 12 points and F Nemanja Djurisic scored 10. Freshman G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored only seven points for the Bulldogs in that game.

-at Florida, March 4

KEY MATCHUPS: Kentucky dominated Gators 78-58 in Lexington on Feb. 7. G Kenny Boynton scored 18 points to lead the Gators, and one of his backcourt mates, Bradley Beal, added 14. But you’ve got to expect the third starting guard, Ervin Walker, to contribute more in the rematch than the one point in scored in that first meeting.

FUTURES MARKET

Kentucky signee Alex Poythress saw his senior season end when his Clarksville Northeast team lost in a region final in the Tennessee high school tournament. Poythress, a 6-7 forward, scored 18 points but his team dropped a 68-61 quarterfinal game to Mt. Juliet, according a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

PLAYER NOTES

-Freshman G Maquis Teague came up one point of his season high on Feb. 25, scoring 16 points against Vanderbilt. He had six assists, giving him a total of 62 against only 27 turnovers in his last 12 games.

-Sophomore F Terrence Jones was in double-figure for a fourth straight game with 12 points against Vanderbilt.


QUOTE TO NOTE

“I’ve been holding him back. I’m trying to get him to stay in school another year.” — Coach John Calipari, with tongue firmly in cheek, on freshman F Anthony Davis.