By LARRY VAUGHT
Sometimes Rupp Arena fans get criticized for their lack of enthusiasm — and sometimes it’s probably valid. For big games like the one Saturday against Auburn, the atmosphere in Rupp Arena can be electric.
“It (the crowd) definitely effected the game. I mean thank you BBN as always,” Kentucky freshman guard Tyree Maxey said after the 73-66 win over Auburn where he had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. “They always come out and show support and show love, so we appreciate that.”
Senior graduate transfer Nate Sestina said the “big crowd was awesome” on Saturday.
“It’s a big-time crowd for us, gets us going and gets the momentum,” Sestina, who had 11 points, said. “We hit a couple shots and the crowds behind you. We had four minutes left and a little bit of a lead, the crowd started getting into it a little bit. They missed a couple shots and we got a couple more possessions and we kind of just put a fork in them.”
Kentucky’s leading scorer, Immanuel Quickley, said avenging a loss to Auburn four weeks earlier and claiming the SEC championship was a a big deal.
“Auburn is a great and you have to give credit where it’s due. We beat them both times last year during the regular season and they beat us when it mattered in the Elite 8 game,” Quickley, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds, said. ” You know the regular season is great but if we see them again we have to be prepared for the battle.”
Maxey said winning the SEC championship was a reward for the team’s hard work, especially when UK trailed both Auburn and LSU by two games at midseason.
“I mean the hard work that we put in during the summer, fall, and now has finally paid off and we are not finished. Not done yet,” the freshman guard said.
“It feels good, all blessings and glory to God. We’ve been working hard all season and a lot of people doubted us but we believed in ourselves,” Quickley said. “Stayed true through the process and we got a dub (win) to become regular season champs.”