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Sacha Killeya-Jones' Play No Surprise To Kenny Payne, Quade Gree - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Sacha Killeya-Jones' Play No Surprise To Kenny Payne, Quade Green

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Sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) provided key minutes for Kentucky Saturday. Sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) provided key minutes for Kentucky Saturday.

By LARRY VAUGHT

ST. LOUIS — He made a turnover not long after he got into Saturday’s game, but it was one of few mistakes that sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones made for Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal game.

With forward Jarred Vanderbilt out with an injury for the second straight game, Killeya-Jones gave the Cats a needed boost with six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes of play — more than he had played in any game in over a month. He was 3-for-3 from the field.

“We needed somebody to replace Jarred. Somebody to give us another rebounder and somebody who can finish or get a tough rebound. He was big for us today and that's how we know he can play. What he did was no surprise,” Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said.

Freshman point guard Quade Green was not surprised by what Killeya-Jones, who had one rebound in 11 minutes in Friday’s win over Georgia but provided solid defense, did against Alabama.

“Sacha can always do that. He’s just never had a chance to do it. Today he had a chance and he competed and got what he deserved,” Green said. “He was really big for us, but we knew he could do that.”

Coach John Calipari admitted Killeya-Jones had received only limited opportunities because of who he was playing behind. 

“I’m watching him play, both on defense, offense, rebounding the ball. He's fighting. He makes us different,” Calipari said. 

Killeya-Jones did his best to downplay what he did. Rather than gloat, he stayed in team-first mode like he normally does.

“Just trying to do what I could do to help my team and help us win the game. My teammates did a great job of finding me and creating shots for me. That comes along with it when you just try to play within the team,” Killeya-Jones said.

Say amen Kenny Payne. The assistant coach leaped into the air when Killeya-Jones hit a short hook shot in the lane against Alabama and made it look easy.

“It just showed he was into the game. The ball hit his hands and he instinctively shot a shot with confidence. He is capable of doing that a lot more,” Payne said. 

What was Killeya-Jones’ favorite play?

“Every one of Wenyen’s 3’s. It was crazy. It didn’t make sense how they kept going in. They weren’t touching any rim or nothing. It was crazy,” Killeya-Jones said.

He was right. Wenyen Gabriel was on fire with 7-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. But that answer says a lot about Killeya-Jones. He could have picked out a blocked shot, rebound or defensive stop he made. Instead, he was happy for Gabriel. 

“It’s the postseason so every game is super important. Not that it wasn’t before but if you lose we go back to Lexington,” he said. “We are here, we are excited to be the (tournament) champion. The fans are great and it feels like home game. We want to take home some hardware tomorrow (by beating Tennessee in the title game).”

For Kentucky to do that, it's going to need Killeya-Jones to do what he does – rebound, play physical defense and maximize his scoring opportunities – just like he did Saturday.

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