By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — He might not be back at full strength, but senior Reid Travis apparently will play for Kentucky tonight against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
A win tonight would put Kentucky into the SEC semifinals against the winner of tonight’s Tennessee-Mississippi State game. A win Saturday would likely secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament South Region for the Wildcats.
Travis has missed five straight games with a sprained right knee but UK teammates indicated Tuesday he had been practicing and looked ready to play.
Thursday night Kentucky coach John Calipari confirmed that.
“He’s been terrific in practice,” Calipari said. “Kind of surprising. Conditioning looked OK. Asked him, ‘How’d you do that?’ ‘I was on that treadmill and that water going hard.’ So he’ll be fine.”
Calipari said Monday if Travis played Friday, it would only be in short stretches. He said Thursday he wasn’t sure about that now because Travis is “farther along than I thought.”
Travis averages 11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game but his low-post presence on offense gives UK a needed inside scorer and on defense he gives the Cats a physical defender with size.
“Just gives you a toughness that we’re going to have to have,” Calipari said about having Travis back. “And not just in this game. Any game we play. If you’re not fighting and you’re not physical and tough at this point in the year, you’re losing. Just how it is.”