Who to watch: John Petty. His next trey will make him the fifth player in Bama history to reach 200 made 3-pointers, and Lexington would be a fitting place for a milestone moment. UK was the other finalist in Petty’s high school recruitment, and in his only game to date at Rupp, Petty had an out-of-nowhere scoring outburst to make the Cats sweat out a game that had verged on becoming a blowout. Later in that freshman campaign, Petty scored 18 points in a SEC Tournament rematch, one of the few Tide players to play well in that semifinal a day after an emotionally-draining upset of Auburn.
Now the Wildcats get a look at Petty – Version 3.0. No longer a streaky freshman playing second banana to Collin Sexton or a slumping sophomore having to rebuild his game while the team around him unravels, he has earned the trust of his new coach and the respect of his teammates, and the results of one game won’t be enough to dent his confidence. But a grand showing in the SEC’s biggest spotlight could truly launch his career into a higher orbit.
What to watch for: A hands-off policy. Kentucky getting the benefit of the doubt from referees has been a cliche seemingly from the SEC’s opening tip back in the 1930s. But this year’s crop of Wildcats indeed makes a living at the foul line, ranking fifth in the country with 17.7 made free throws a game. UK’s opponents are being called for an average of 20 fouls per game, and that’s with the Cats playing at a much more modest pace than Bama. Herbert Jones and Beetle Bolden are already vulnerable to getting into quick foul trouble, and if they can’t clean up their game then the Crimson Tide will struggle to keep hope for an upset alive.
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