"We've had some ups and downs in non-conference, conference, but they kept on returning to practice and watching videos and working on their games and trying to get better so that when we got to this point in the SEC Tournament, we could win a few games and have a chance to win the third one".
The SEC wraps up its conference tournament on Sunday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with a showdown between perennial conference power Kentucky, and longtime conference rival Arkansas. The Razorbacks have won seven of their last eight games since a 72-59 home loss to the Commodores on February 7, and they eked out a 73-72 win over Ole Miss on Friday behind 17 points from Daryl Macon.
It wasn't necessarily the sharpest performance from Kentucky. Kentucky has had to come from behind against a few less talented teams in recent weeks, but has looked much better overall since being blown out at Florida on February 4. Kentucky outlasted Alabama while Arkansas dominated Vanderbilt the second half to win 76-62 as Vandy missed 23 of 31 3-pointers. The big spurt came as Kentucky scored 13 straight points to end the first half and into the opening minute of the second that turned a three-point lead to a 46-30 edge. Since then, the Wildcats have hit their stride as they begin to reach their enormous potential with three superstar freshmen leading the way.
Arkansas is 41-30 all-time in their previous 30 appearances and has is 19-11 in its first game in the tournament.
Kentucky has improved since those losses, with a top-15 offense and defense, according to the KenPom ratings.
The resume makes Kentucky a likely No. 2 seed on Sunday evening, one that undoubtedly has national championship potential, even if there are flaws and the potential for a scoring drought if Monk goes cold.
Arkansas' bench appeared to become upset after Kentucky guard Malik Monk made a throat-slashing gesture toward it in the second half. "We came out, got off to a good start against a Vanderbilt team that was one of the hottest teams in the country". Watkins had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists without a turnover. Vanderbilt won eight of its final 11 games while playing the nation's toughest schedule, with six of its final 11 wins against projected NCAA Tournament teams. "I'm sure they're looking forward to it as well". Daryl Macon led the Razorbacks with 17 points and chipped in the game-sealing free throws that Arkansas needed.
A large majority of those in attendance were clad in red and gold, and it sounded more like the game was played in Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum rather than a neutral site.
NEW YORK - Josh Hart had 29 points and six rebounds as second-ranked Villanova captured its second Big East tournament championship in three years with a 74-60 victory over Creighton on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"I'm really proud of our guys", Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.
Kentucky shot 49 percent, including 40 percent from 3-point range. After a pair of close wins, the Wildcats took control early against the Razorbacks and maintained their margin - aside from a brief late threat by Arkansas to cut its deficit to nine in the closing moments.