By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s first Southeastern Conference road game didn’t end well as the Cats lost to Alabama despite a furious rally late in the game.
Now Kentucky plays at Georgia tonight. The Bulldogs are 9-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play for first-year coach Tom Crean, the former coach at Indiana.
Sophomore Nick Richards hopes the UK freshmen learned something from the loss at Alabama.
“We all talked about on the plane ride back how it’s kind of hard to play in the SEC. It’s not like a non-conference game. It’s one of the biggest conferences in the country, so guys have to get ready to play every possession,” Richards said Monday.
He said SEC games are “faster” than most non-conference games.
“You’re not going to get calls that you want, it’s more aggressive, games are kind of tight, it’s a balanced conference, anybody can beat anybody,” Richards said.
Kentucky has fallen behind in the opening minutes of the last two games and also had to overcome a big deficit at Alabama just to get back in the game.
“We just didn’t come out with the right energy, to be honest. I think the more we come out with the right mindset, the stars would probably go the opposite way, we’ll go on a 12-0 run instead of us going down on a 12-0 run,” Richards said.
He took one hard fall and also got hit in the face once in the win Saturday over Vanderbilt.
“After the game, I felt a little bit of soreness in my leg, so I just went to the training room and got a little bit of rehab. I’m feeling a lot better today. Other than taking a shot to the head, I felt really good after the game, I was surprised, I didn’t have any dizziness or nothing,” Richards said.
Calipari was, too. He was set to take Richards out of the game after he took a fall but the sophomore told him he could continue playing.
“(Calipari) wanted to take me out because it looked like a really bad fall. I saw the replay and I was really surprised I didn’t really hurt myself,” Richards said. “He was actually concerned that I probably tore something or broke something, so he was trying to get me out of the game as fast as possible. So I told him I was fine and he left me in.”
Calipari wants him to be better than fine and become a dominant defender and shot blocker.
“I’m getting better, it’s just a long season. I’m trying to go hard every game,” Richards said. “We just talked about blocking shots every day in practice. Coach is basically emphasizing that if I’m a rim protector, we’re probably going to win a national championship. That’s one of the key things we need to win a national championship, is a rim protector.”