The Crimson Tide basketball team kept their winning ways going by defeating Kentucky by a score of 85-65 on Tuesday night. The win was the Tide’s first in Lexington since 2006 and the margin was the worst home loss of UK coach John Calapari’s tenure at the school. It was also the biggest win by margin for Alabama over Kentucky since 1974. The win put Bama at the top of the SEC standings with a 5-0 start, and the team is now 10-3 overall. The ‘Cats have struggled this year and fell to 4-7 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Alabama coach Nate Oats: “Herb has a hand/finger issue. Bruner has a knee. They’ll both be taken to Birmingham to be evaluated in the morning.” Adds on Jones is a hand, not a wrist, and that “from what I heard, it’s not broken but he may be out for a while.”— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) January 13, 2021
The win could prove costly for the Tide as they lost Herbert Jones just eight minutes into the game with an injury to his left (dominant) hand. Jones was playing at a high level when he went down, with eight early points including two made three point shots in three tries. Speculation is that the senior may miss several weeks, even though Coach Oats said he would be evaluated on Wednesday morning. Grad transfer Jordan Bruner, the team’s best inside player, went down later in the game with an apparent injury to his right knee. The Yale transfer has been fighting through affects of a problem with his left knee. More will be known about the severity when he is checked out on Wednesday. On top of those two losses, the Crimson Tide was also playing their third straight game with out there only true point guard, Jahvon Quinerly who is said to be out with a “medical condition” but will possibly be back on Saturday.
Bruner hit a three point shot to stake the Tide to an early 3-0 advantage, a lead they never gave up. Jones hit his two early shots from deep, then added a slam dunk before falling hard on a missed layup. With Quinerly out, most of the point guard duties have fallen to Jones. With both out, the team was in a dangerous situation. However, John Petty, Jaden Shackelford, and Joshua Primo shared the duties, and all acquitted themselves well. Alex Reese came of the bench to provide a spark and the Tide led 42-30 at the half. Alabama shot 16-37 in the half for 43% with an eye popping 10-22 from deep for 45%. The team missed their only two free throw attempts. Kentucky shot 10-31 for 32%, including 3-10 from deep and 7-10 from the free throw line.
In the second half, the Tide pushed the lead out to 16 with 18:34 left in the game. After a first half of bombs away, the ‘Cat defense was loosened up enough for Shackelford, Petty, and Primo to consistently drive the basket for shots at the rim. In contrast to the first half, the team only hoisted eight shots from beyond the arc in the second stanza. Alabama kept a double digit lead for several minutes. At the 12 minute mark, Bruner went down in obvious pain and had to be helped to the locker room. The closest that UK could get was 67-55 after an eight point run. Primo and Petty took over from there, driving the lane for baskets, or fouls, or baskets and fouls. For the fourth time in five SEC games, Oats was able to clear the bench at the end of the game.
The Tide hit 15-31 for 48% in the second half, with 4-8 from deep and 9-11 from the free throw line. The team finished 31-68 for 45% including a scorching 14-30 from three and 9-13 from the free throw line. Bama finished with 36 rebounds, 15 assists, 11 turnovers, three blocks, and nine steals. Kentucky was 11-30 in the half, including only 1-8 from three and they were 12-14 from the free throw line. For the game, the Wildcats shot a dismal 21-61 for 34%, 4-18 from three point range (12%), but did hit 19-24 free throws for 80%. The big ‘Cats had 44 rebounds, seven assist, 19 turnovers, nine blocks, and five steals.
This was another great road win, but this isn't your daddy’s (or grandaddy’s) Kentucky team. Calapari has had great success with the one-and-done model, but this year the model seems broken, either by lack of preseason practice, or perhaps having players that weren't quite ready, or as good as expected, when they came in. They are big and a good rebounding team, but don't seem to do much of anything else very well.
Who Did What?
Petty has turned into the senior leader that Oats has wanted. After their dust up a couple of weeks ago, the Alabama head coach has had nothing but praise for the Huntsville native. Petty played 38 minutes and scored 23 points on 9-15 shooting, with 4-7 from behind the arc, and added five rebounds and a couple of assists. Shackelford also played 38 minutes and contributed 18 points and dished out six assists as more of the ball handling duties fell on him. Primo had a nice game with 12 points and four steals. Bruner, Jones, and Reese contributed eight points apiece. Juwan Gary played more minutes than normal, 13, and had four points and five rebounds. Keon Ellis played 18 minutes and got the teams hard hat award despite not scratching the scoring column. He had six rebounds and several hustle plays.
If Jones and Bruner are out for extended periods, the team will suffer. Quinerly should be on the cusp of returning, possibly in time for Saturday’s game with Arkansas. The teams depth, which is much better this year, will be challenged with this many important players out. Hopefully, Quinerly will be back sooner rather than later. If Jones and Bruner’s injuries are as bad as they appear they could miss several games which means players like Ellis, Gary, and James Rojas are going to need to contribute more. Hope for the best, but expect the worse, after all this is Alabama basketball.
Arkansas comes to Tuscaloosa on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. tip of a game that can be seen on the SEC Network. On Tuesday the 19th, the Tide travels to play LSU in Baton Rouge at 8 p.m. on an ESPN game. This will be two very tough games, so hope for injuries not to be as bad as the look. It is nice to have a 5-0 start for a cushion, but the Tide needs to grab all the wins they can.
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