The Alabama basketball team rolled into Rupp Arena hoping to be the first Alabama team to notch a win at Kentucky since the 2006 squad coached by Mark Gottfried rode a 28-point outing from Jermareo Davidson to victory. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
The struggling ‘Cats seemed ripe for the upset but used their size and strength to absolutely destroy the Tide on the boards by a margin of 44-27, including a ridiculous 20 on the offensive end, to seize an 81-71 victory. UK also used free throw shooting to help put away the Tide, hitting 21-28 from the stripe, while UA hit only 13-21 in the game. Kentucky entered the day with a very uncharacteristic four game losing streak. With the win the Cats improved to 18-9, 7-7 in the SEC. Alabama fell to 17-10, 8-6 in the league.
In the first half, the play of freshman reserve Alex Reese kept the Tide close. Reese played 11 minutes and scored 10 points in the first frame, including 2-4 from behind the three point arc. As a team ‘Bama shot 12-28 (43%), including 4-15 (27%) from deep for the half. Free throws continued to be a problem with a 60% (6-10) performance. Kentucky was 14-31 for 45% including only 2-5 from deep, and were at 90% from the charity stripe at the break (9-10.)
In the second half the Tide got pounded on the glass, particularly the offensive end. The Cats had 13 of their 22 second half boards after their own misses, continually having second and third chances.
Donta Hall played only 11 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and having pain in his previously broken wrist. However in the second half was on the court for 19 of the 20 minutes and did his best to keep the Tide in the game, going 5-5 from the floor, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots.
The Tide led only once as they briefly took a lead at 59-58 with 8:34 left in the game. The margin vacillated between two and four points until right at the three minute mark when ‘Bama went cold and started turning the ball over. The Cats pushed the lead out with the Tide having to foul, making the margin bigger than the game played out.
For the game the Tide shot 26-55 for 47%, but a dismal 6-24 (25%) from deep, and 13-21 for 62% from the free throw line. The team committed 13 turnover and had 11 assists, three steals, and three blocks. The block and steal numbers are way below the season average. As a team the Tide had 27 rebounds, their lowest total of the year. Kentucky shot 28-64 for 44%, with only 4-11 (36%) from three point range. The Cats hit 75% (21-28) from the free throw line and had 44 rebounds, 10 assists, 13 turnovers, four blocks, and five steals.
‘Bama has been one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but allowed way too many second (and third) chance points. The team shot well enough and held the ‘Cats to a low enough percentage to win, but could not overcome the rebounding deficiency and the Rupp referee (Rupperee?) effect.
Hall was joined in double figures by John Petty with 13, Collin Sexton with 12, and Alex Reese with 10. Reese only played four second half minutes after being very successful in the first half. Hall’s six rebounds led the team while Reese, Herbert Jones, and Braxton Key added four each. Five ‘Cats scored in double digits, with three of those being reserve players. P.J. Washington was the leader with 16.
This was a game that the Tide felt they could win, and things get tougher from here. The next game is Wednesday at Auburn. The game is at 7:30 CT and can be seen on the SEC Network. Auburn still sits in first place in the SEC, despite losing at South Carolina on Saturday. The Tigers suffered a major loss when big man Anfrenee McLemore suffered a gruesome broken ankle in the game. The game doesn't fall in the “must win” category, but losing to Auburn at anything is something we never take lying down.
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