As has become tradition, the Alabama Crimson Tide’s (18-15, 9-11 SEC) run in the conference tournament was once again brought to an end by the historical heavyweight of the league, the Kentucky Wildcats (27-5, 16-3 SEC), in an uninspiring and predictable 73-55 loss. The outcome never in doubt, John Calipari’s squad ran circles around the aloof Tide, as the ‘Cats exacted revenge for their stunning upset loss in Tuscaloosa earlier this season.
To credit Avery Johnson’s guys, the team came out with a lot more intensity and focus than they had against Ole Miss the round before. After a John Petty three-ball tied the score up at nine in the early goings, it seemed that Alabama may just give Kentucky a fight. Then, the Tide played some of the dumbest basketball I’ve ever seen for a few minutes, subbed in Avery Johnson Jr., and quickly found themselves down 26-11 with 9:45 to go in the first half. Clearly, game management was on-point.
With just under six to play in the opening period, Avery Johnson finally allowed Alex Reese to come out from underneath the stairs, and the team decided it would make sense to hit one of the best spot-up shooters on the team in rhythm a couple of times to try to trim the deficit. In what had to have been a stunning revelation to the coaching staff, Reese responded by knocking down a pair of threes on consecutive possessions, and, after another made trey by Dazon Ingram, the Tide had brought the game to within two baskets at 33-27 with about two minutes to play before halftime. The ‘Cats knocked down a few more baskets and ultimately took a 39-29 lead into the break.
Reese got the second half going with another made basket, part of his team-leading 15 points, but the Tide never got any closer the rest of the way. Kentucky landed a couple of jabs in the form of tough jump-shots from Tyler Herro, and then went into cruise control from there on out. Alabama played a much cleaner game in the second half, but so did the Wildcats.
In the end, the outcome was exactly what we all expected. The soon-to-be top-seeded Wildcats shot 47.5% from the field and 7/15 from downtown. They out-rebounded the Tide 42-32, swatted 11 shots, and forced Alabama into an official 11 turnovers (though it certainly felt like more). The effort was there for the Tide last night, but they were simply overmatched in this game. It would have taken their best efforts to win, and, as has been the case for a month now, they showed up with their ‘C’ game instead.
Reese made six of the Tide’s seventeen total field goals for the game, as just about everyone else struggled to get anything going offensively. Donta Hall was only able to go 3/9 against Kentucky’s nasty front-court, and no one else could get the outside shot going, which led to a bunch of contested shots around the rim (thus, the 11 blocks). Kira Lewis had another rough evening, finishing 1/5 from the field with four ugly turnovers. The team did knock down 15/19 from the free throw line, which was nice.
Now, all the Tide can do is wait. The resume is officially in to the selection committee, as Alabama’s post-season fate rests at the mercy of a room of people with varying degrees of basketball knowledge and competency. With VCU getting knocked out of the Atlantic-10 Tournament in a stunning upset, the tournament-bound Rams will now be taking up an at-large spot as a bid-stealing mid-major squad shrinks the bubble further. Tide fans will need to pull heavily for Washington, Utah State, and Buffalo to win their respective championship games tomorrow.
I plan to dive further into Alabama’s chances of making the tournament later on this weekend. The Tide have given themselves a shot with the win over Ole Miss, but it’s going to be really close.
Will the Tide make the NCAA tournament?
This poll is closed
Yes. It’s a very soft year on the bubble