By LARRY VAUGHT
Assistant coach Kenny Payne said Friday that he felt UNC Greensboro was a NCAA Tournament team. National analysts were warning that UNC Greensboro could challenge Kentucky and pointed to how close it came to beating Gonzaga in last year’s NCAA tourney before Gonzaga went to the Final Four.
Maybe Reid Travis wasn’t used to that type of hype for a December game at Stanford before he transferred to UK for his senior season.
“That was hype. I loved it,” Travis said after UK’s comeback win Saturday. “When the noise was going, the atmosphere, when we were really trying to lock down on the defense, the fans really helped us with that and gave us a lot of energy.
“To have a game this early in the season when there’s that much energy in the building we loved it. I think we just really fed off that and I think that’s when you saw those big spurts and runs that we had in the second half.
“Coaches preached all week that this team was going to test us. They have veterans, they run good stuff on offense, the 1-2-2 press that they run is something that we hadn’t seen before. We knew it was going to be a challenge and it was going be a good game. I’m just happy with the outcome and the way we fought through in the second half.”
Travis said the Cats finally “matured” against UNC Greensboro in part because the team is getting more accustomed to each other.
“The more games we can play, get on film and learn from, just means the more games we can have like this one,” Travis, who had his first double-double at UK in the win, said.
Kentucky’s defense allowed only six points in the final 13 minutes to secure UK’s seventh straight win. Travis said it was simply becoming more consistent and no dramatic changes.
“There wasn’t any big system type of deals that we were switching up towards the end of the game except for the fact that we were sticking with what we were doing. We were chasing out trying to make their best scorers and shooters take tougher looks,” Travis said.
“We know they got hot early on and we were a little disappointed about that, but the biggest thing was just staying on them. We knew their legs were going to get tired. So, we just kept running, kept following off those screens and it just came together towards the end.”