The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled into Rupp Arena in Lexington in search of their first victory away from Coleman Coliseum this season. Despite a three-point lead at half time, the outsized and outmanned Tide could not pull off the win, falling 55-48 to the 25th ranked Wildcats. Kentucky came into the game with a two game losing streak. Alabama fell to 12-18 overall and 6-11 in the SEC. The Wildcats improved to 22-8,12-5 in conference.
'Bama was able to take a 28-25 halftime lead by out shooting the Wildcats 42.3 % (11-26) to 24% (6-24.) Kentucky kept the game close by hitting 11-15 free throws compared to 3-5 for the Tide. At the half, Trevor Releford had nine points and Shannon Hale added eight to help the Tide to their lead. 'Bama hit 3-8 three pointers in the first half while Kentucky was just 2-14 from behind the arc. Alabama only turned the ball over twice in the first half. Truthfully, the Tide played as well as could be expected in the first half in a very hostile environment.
After the intermission, Releford came out and hit a jumper to give the Tide their biggest lead at five points. Thereafter the Wildcats finally exerted their superior size and continued to pound the smaller Tide on the boards. 'Bama was game and fought hard, but got destroyed 41-27 on the boards, including 15-6 on the offensive end. Kentucky continually got second and third chances and were able to score and/or go to the free throw line. The Tide fell behind by nine with six minutes left, and cut the deficit to three on a couple of occasions, but couldn't come up with the big play or big stop.
Releford had a relatively quiet game, scoring 13 points, handing out three assists and grabbing three rebounds. For the first time this season, the SEC leader in steals did not have a single swipe in the game. The Tide only had two steals in the game and only one blocked shot. Kentucky recorded seven blocks and committed 12 turnovers. 'Bama had eight turnovers in the game. Retin Obasohan had nine points and Levi Randolph and Hale added eight each. Hale led the team in rebounds with six. Randolph had five. Rodney Cooper, who leads the team in rebounds, had only one rebound and scored two points in 35 minutes of action. Jimmie Taylor scored four points and had three rebounds. Carl Engstrom scored two and had four rebounds. Highly hyped freshman Julius Randle had a double-double for Kentucky with 12 points and 11 rebounds. James Young added nine points, despite shooting 1-11 from the field, including 1-10 from the three point line. Dakari Johnson also had nine points.
'Bama held Kentucky to 32.7% shooting on the game (16-49) while the Tide shot 38% (19-50.) The Wildcats were only 5-28 (17.9%) from the three point line, while 'Bama was only 3-13 (23.1%.) The difference was at the free throw line, where Kentucky hit 18-24 for 75% and the Tide was 7-11, 64%. The free throw shooting and the rebounding battle were where this game was lost. The Tide played hard and played smart, but were outmanned in size and talent. Kentucky once again is loaded with future first round picks, several in the one-and-done crowd, and bluntly the Tide is not loaded with future draft picks.
Say what you will about this Tide team, but they have not quit. They continue to play hard, but just don't have the horses needed to navigate the SEC, despite the conference being in a downward cycle. Since by all indications coach Anthony Grant will be back next year the fan base needs to rally around the team and at least send some good "juju" their way as they finish this season out and move forward. The Tide plays Arkansas Saturday at 3 p.m. in the final home game for all time great Releford. The little senior from Kansas City deserves to be sent out on a good note, and hopefully there will be a nice crowd to help celebrate his greatness. After that, the SEC tournament begins Wednesday March 12th in Atlanta, and the Tide will be playing on the first day.
This season is rapidly (?) coming to an end, (some would say crawling). So let's try to end it on a good note.
Roll Tide, Y'all
By the way, the baseball team's Capital City Classic against Auburn has been rescheduled for Wednesday March 5th in Montgomery at Riverwalk Stadium, home of the Biscuits. I am still set to throw out the first pitch, so let's hope for better weather! And remember to follow me on twitter @rogerpatmyers for live, in game, inning by inning updates. RTR