On January 9, the Kentucky Wildcats went into Tuscaloosa, Alabama and came away with a crushing loss. They came back at the end and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but the Cats couldn’t convert.
Fast forward two months, and Kentucky now has the opportunity for revenge in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday evening. With the Crimson Tide upsetting the Ole Miss Rebels in the second round tonight, they will now move on to take on the Cats.
And if you ask Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans, that’s exactly how they wanted it.
“Oh, you know we all want Alabama to win,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “(Our loss back in January) was a tough one, so we want to come back and be prepared for that one. It hurt us, you know?”
With the Crimson Tide moving on from their victory this evening, they quickly caught wind of Hagans’ comments and responded accordingly.
For Alabama guard John Petty, he said his team welcomes Hagans’ challenge with open arms.
“I mean, challenge accepted,” he said. “We’re always going to accept a challenge once it’s been given, so we’re going to have to come out and play our best basketball and keep all their great players under control.”
As for junior guard Tevin Mack, who scorched the Cats for 22 points and six 3-pointers in their previous matchup, he made it obvious that he would be using Hagans’ words as motivation tomorrow night.
“Oh forreal? That’s cool,” he said with a smirk. “That’s all I’ve gotta say about it. That’s cool.”
Alabama head coach Avery Johnson wouldn’t engage in any player banter, but did say that he was happy that a player of Hagans’ caliber was wanting to take on his team.
“Well you know I’m not going to get into a verbal sparring match with the players, I’m too old for that,” he said. “But Hagans is a terrific player, a co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, causes havoc… I’m glad that he wanted to play us.”
Petty, who finished with six points and two blocks last time around, said he understands that this matchup will be a tough one for his Alabama team. Kentucky is a completely different team from two months ago, after all.
“We know it’s going to be a great game, highly-anticipated, guys are going to come out remembering what happened in Tuscaloosa,” he said. “We’re going to have to be physical and ready. … We know they’re a totally different team than when we played them last time.”
Sitting at 18-14 on the year, Alabama’s NCAA Tournament hopes likely ride on how they fare this week. With a win over Kentucky tomorrow, Mack believes his team has a great shot at making the big dance.
“That’d be huge,” he said. “I bet that’d be huge for our chances. I bet it’d secure (a bid) for us, so we really need to think about that tomorrow.”
Kentucky has knocked Alabama out of the SEC Tournament in three consecutive years.
Can they break their hearts and make it four tomorrow?