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Nate Sestina: “We kind of got manhandled (at Auburn)”

Nate Sestina admitted Monday that the Cats “kind of got manhandled” at Auburn — and some worry it could happen again against Mississippi State. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — The tape told the tale of what happened in Kentucky’s loss at Auburn last Saturday.

“We kind of got manhandled in that game and it’s a point of emphasis after watching film that we need to be a little bit tougher, make contact first going after rebounds on free throws, quit watching the ball when we’re going for rebounds and just moving forward. It’s just a big point of emphasis for us.” Kentucky senior Nate Sestina said Monday. “Just making sure that we’re the ones hitting first and making sure we’re the ones stepping first to go after rebounds.”

The 15th-ranked Wildcats (16-5, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) had a four-game winning streak snapped in a 75-66 loss at No. 11 Auburn last weekend. Kentucky had won its previous two Saturday showdowns at Arkansas and Texas Tech, respectively, but couldn’t keep the trend going against the Tigers. Kentucky gets a chance to rebound in a quick turnaround game against Mississippi State Tuesday night.

“It’s a good test for us,” Sestina said. “After watching the film and kind of seeing and watching that you got pushed around a little bit, and then going after it yesterday in practice and going after it again today in practice. Like I said before, just trusting that everything that we’re doing the past two days is going to pay off tomorrow night.

“I think it’s a good test for us going into the game knowing that they pride themselves on that. That’s something that we have to get in our head, is that we have to pride ourselves on being tough. We have tough guys. We just have to prove it.”

Mississippi State (14-7, 5-3) has won five straight league games and is coming off wins against Florida (78-71) and Tennessee (86-73) respectively last week. The Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak against the Volunteers, a performance that impressed Tennessee coach Rick Barnes.

“The second half, they just dominated,” Barnes said. “We didn’t have an answer for it. That is what is frustrating. We have to give them credit for it. They did exactly what we told our team at halftime they would do. They had not shot the ball well in the first half. We knew they would come out, push it at us and try to get there early and post up. They did.”

Reggie Perry has been a driving force for the Bulldogs and averaged 25.5 points and 10 rebounds per game last week. For those efforts, the Mississippi State forward was named SEC Co-Player of the Week, sharing the honor with Arkansas guard Mason Jones.

Mississippi State coach Ben Howland doesn’t think there has been a better player in the league recently than Perry.

“The last five games, he’s been dominant,” Howland said. “He was very, very good for us at LSU. He’s playing great. The only game that he had a subpar game was where he got in foul trouble with the Oklahoma loss on the road by one. We still gave ourselves a chance to win that game with him in limited action.”

UK associate head coach Kenny Payne said defending Perry will be a “tough challenge.”

“He’s an NBA player,” Payne said. “(He is) big, strong, athletic (and) Can shoot it. (He is) tough around the basket. Going to be a big challenge for our guys, especially when he’s at the four because he’s 6-foot-9, 610 pounds.”

Kentucky is hopeful junior forward Nick Richards gets back on track after scoring just seven points — an SEC season-low for him — in the loss at Auburn. Payne said Richards wasn’t “aggressive enough, not physical enough, not quite ready for the battle” in the setback at Auburn.

“In this game, similar to the Mississippi State game that we’re going to see tomorrow, you better be the aggressor,” Payne said. “If not, you will be on your heels the whole night which was a great lesson for him. Thought (Austin) Wiley, the kid Austin Wiley, really played hard against him. Really tried to be physical with him, and in return, he had a double-double, that kid did. We’re not going to win if Nick Richards isn’t playing well.”

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Gametracker: Mississippi State at Kentucky, 9 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

2 comments

  1. Yeah Nick got pushed around, EJ too. The refs allowed it. Defensive play that looked like there should have been a few more PF’s called against Auburn players, both out on the floor, and around the basket. Nick was trying, but he was also playing with 2 and 3 fouls, and 4 down the stretch. Hard to “manhandle” if the refs are not calling the game fairly Coach. Auburn never was in serious foul trouble. I know you can’t say that. Let’s all hope UK don’t get the same crew tomorrow night against MSU. If I was UK, I would come out with my “fur up” against the Bulldogs. Then let’s see if these SEC game officials give UK a fair shake, and let them play like they let Auburn play Sat. Go show em Cats!!!!! In closing, I can’t wait for Feb 29 at Rupp Arena. Hope the Cats give Auburn a day to remember. Pearl and Auburn deserve it.

  2. I think Auburn had 44 foul shots. I can’t recall seeing this number of fouls called on any team in the past. I think there was a streak or two when Auburn had 4 or 5 trips in a row where they shot foul shots. I would have to break down the film several times to understand this. If I could stand the pain of watching it. So much for defensive rebounds. We did get out rebounded and I’m not sure I understand this either. The officials were the only ones who had rhythm in this game. As far as shooting is concerned, Auburn couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean if they were standing in the surf. I’m not as angry as I am confused to be truthful. Auburn had a better team last year. Manhanded? I would respectfully suggest the officials manhandled this game. I think we can go undefeated the rest of the year if we can figure this one out.

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