NASHVILLE, Tenn. (KT) — Reid Travis is expected to return to the lineup when Kentucky opens the postseason against Alabama on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Travis practiced with the team this week and was on the floor at Bridgestone Arena Friday morning. The senior forward has missed the past six games because of a strained knee. Travis suffered the injury in a 66-58 win over Missouri on Feb. 19.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats (26-5) went 4-1 with Travis out of the lineup. The lone loss was a 71-52 drubbing at No. 7 Tennessee on March 2 in Knoxville. Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro is looking forward to having Travis back on the court.
“I think he’s going to fit right back in,” Herro said. “He was injured, but he was still getting workouts in and stuff like that. I think he’ll fit right in, as he was early in the season, and we’re excited to eventually have him back.”
Aside from his scoring and rebounding, Herro said Travis gives the Wildcats a reliable defensive presence in the post.
“I think he does a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat book — offensively, setting screens stuff like that (and) just being a leader,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to be happy when he comes back because he’s a huge part of our team.”
Kentucky sophomore PJ Washington said having Travis back will take pressure off him in the post and added the Wildcats are “just looking to get better on the defensive end as well as the offensive end.”
“Having him back is great,” Washington said. “Not a lot of teams can double (team) us because we definitely have another post player who can really score the ball. It’s going to be harder for teams to guard us. He’s great on the defensive end. He always knows what we’re in, he’s vocal and he’s a leader.”
Alabama defeated Kentucky 77-75 in the conference opener for both teams on Jan. 5. Following the setback, Kentucky went on a 10-game winning streak.
Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans has returned to mid-season form down the stretch. Hagans has scored 24 points in the past two games, including 14 points in the regular-season finale against Florida last weekend in Lexington.
“I think I’m at the peak where I’m getting better,” Hagans said. “Just gotta keep staying in the gym, keep working on my game. But I feel, like all along, it’s all come together in the long run.”
Hagans credits the Kentucky coaching staff for his recent progression. Traditionally, point guards have been the key in the postseason during John Calipari’s 10-year tenure at Kentucky.
“Doing all type of drills with Coach KP (Kenny Payne), Joel (Justus),” he said. “(I have been) coming in late at night just working on my craft and just getting in the gym, getting up shots. That’s really all it is: just routines, repetition and just keep on getting up shots.”
Gametracker: Kentucky vs. Ole Miss or Alabama, 7 p.m. (EST) Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.