By LARRY VAUGHT
The biggest key for Kentucky at Tennessee Saturday for the Wildcats is simple — get Reid Travis healthy.
That’s what coach John Calipari said Friday and certainly no UK fan — or knowledgeable college basketball fan — would disagree. But will the senior center play or not after missing the last two games with a sprained knee?
“We’re going to see what he does today and tomorrow, but I doubt it,” Calipari said Friday. “What kids try to do is convince you that they can do this, and my whole thing (is) this is about the long season, not the short season. This will be a hard game whether he plays or not”
He’s certainly right about players trying to convince coaches they can play. He’s also right that a healthy Travis in NCAA play is more important than playing him Saturday. Calipari is also right that with or without Travis, winning at Tennessee will be hard.
Both teams are tied with LSU for the SEC lead at 13-2. Both teams are in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky beat then No. 1 Tennessee 86-69 in Rupp Arena on Feb. 16 with ESPN GameDay in attendance.
“This is a team that doesn’t beat themselves. This is a team that’s physical. This is a team that is a veteran team that’s been through everything,” Calipari said. “The plays they made at the end of Mississippi (Wednesday) to win the game is what they are. They’re just that kind of team.
“They’re well coached. Rick (Barnes) has done yeoman’s work in how he’s gotten them to defend. They’ve added a couple of things that I saw today again that we’ve got to cover with this young team. The good news is after this game we still have more games.”
Calipari said no Travis just means Nick Richards, who had 15 rebounds Tuesday in a win over Arkansas, and EJ Montgomery have to do more.
“One guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity, so Nick and EJ have a chance to step out. How we played, PJ (Washington) may be the roughhouse guy. Even if Reid does play, how many minutes? I mean, I don’t know. I just don’t. The injury is a strained knee, but it’s still one, but we’ll see,” Calipari said.