Alabama had beaten the Cats in Rupp Arena at the tail end of a 3-game free fall, including two at Rupp. "Beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena was a pretty big thing for us," Gottfried said, "especially since we had just lost Davis."
Chuck Davis, Alabama's leading scorer and floor leader, tore his anterior cruciate ligament the Saturday prior to the Kentucky game. The senior foward had been a candidate for national player of the year honors.
Gottfried rallied his troops however, and the Tide went on an 8-3 SEC run, including wins over Tennessee, LSU and Kentucky, "I told our kids that we can't give up the season. I knew they had it in them. We had a lot of players that really stepped up to fill the gap. We started playing as a unit more than ever."
One of the players that stepped up was Jermareo Davidson, the 6-foot-10 junior center that scored 18 of his career high 28 points in the second half of the game against Kentucky, helping the Tide to best the Cats. "Davidson has really done the job for us all year long – scoring and rebounding," said Gottfried, "He and Ronald Steele have made for a great one-two punch."
Steele has averaged nearly 14 points per game and over four assists per game. He and Davidson were named to the All-SEC first team.
But Gottfried has a healthy respect for Kentucky. "I think they have really improved since we last played them. (Randolph) Morris was playing in just his second game I think, when we faced them, and he has developed into a force in the paint. But the key to beating Kentucky, in my opinion, is stopping Rajon Rondo. To stop Kentucky, you have to limit what Rondo does. He is playing with confidence. I could see that when he hit that 3-pointer later in the game today (against Ole Miss)."
Gottfried was also impressed with the game of Ramel Bradley, "He had 14 points against us in the first game, and we know he was out hurt the past few games," said Gottfried, "but you could not tell it by his play today. He gives their team a different look. He is hard to defend against. He gave them a lift."
While Alabama holds a better SEC record than Kentucky at 10-6, the Tide's overall record (17-11) has a lot of Alabama fans worried that a loss on Friday just might cost them an NCAA bid, "I think we are in, but we can't afford to take any chances," Gottfried said, "we need to go out there and take this game to remove all doubt. But it's not going to be easy. Tubby Smith always has his team ready to play at tournament time. They have had their fair share of ups and downs this year, but we know we are going to have our hands full tomorrow."
The Tide are only 3-3 in their last six SEC contests, but two of those wins came against Tennessee and Florida.
Alabama is he only team of the top four seeds that has beaten the other three top seeds.
Center Jermareo Davidson had ten double-doubles this year.
The last time Kentucky met Alabama in the SEC Tournament was in 1998, when UK won a national championship. The Cats won that game 82-71.
The last time Alabama beat UK in the SEC Tournament was in 1983.