The 7th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide took no prisoners Saturday afternoon in Coleman Coliseum as they schooled their nemesis, the Kentucky Wildcats, by a score of 78-52. The win was the largest margin of victory by the Tide over the Cats, topping the 1990 win by 25 points. Defense, ball handling, and toughness led Bama to the big win, in which they improved to 13-2 overall and 3-0 in the SEC. UK fell to 10-5 and 1-2 in the league.
Coach Nate Oats stayed with his starting five of Jaden Bradley, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. The Tide started off ahead right out of the gate on a couple of beautiful pick and roll dunks from Bediako, and ended up leading wire to wire. Bediako and Clowney combined for the team’s first 11 points. From 11-2 Kentucky closed the gap to 16-15 with eight minutes left in the half. Miller didn't scratch the scoring column until the clock was on 6:15 left, but quickly scored seven points. Jahvon Quinerly scored five points in the last 1:20 to help stake the Tide to a 35-24 lead at the half.
The Tide shot 10-23 for 45% in the first, including 2-10 from deep and made 13-17 from the free throw line. Bama hauled in 19 rebounds, had eight assists, and six turnovers. Bediako and Clowney both had eight points at the break to lead the team, while Quinerly and Miller had seven apiece. Kentucky shot 10-34 for 29% with 2-7 from three and made 2-4 free throws. The Cats had 21 rebounds, the majority on the offensive glass. with two assists and seven turnovers. Shavir Wheeler was the high scorer alongside Antonio Reeves with 10 each.
The same starters came out for the second half. Bradley scored on the first possession and Bediako made 1-2 free throws. The Tide rebounded the miss and Sears nailed a three pointer, and the rout was on. When Miller had a beautiful break away dunk on a nice pass from Rylan Griffen Bama was up 50-29 and you could see the quit in the Cats.
Question: What is better?!— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) January 7, 2023
Brandon Miller's Dunk?
Brandon Miller's stare at the camera?
You decide Alabama pic.twitter.com/nbsjYH0zKH
Sears, Miller, and Quinerly took turns scorching UK and with three minutes left the lead was 30 at 72-42.
In the second half the Tide shot 16-31 for 52% 6-12 from deep, 5-9 from the line with only three turnovers. Overall Bama finished 26-54 for 48% including 8-22 for 36% from deep and made 18-26 for 69% from the charity stripe. Miller led the team with 19 points on 7-15 shooting and added seven rebounds. Sears had 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, and six steals, garnering the player of the game and the hard hat award for the team.
Quinerly had 12 points on 4-7 shooting and looked the best he has all season, playing under control. Bediako had nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks, while controlling the reigning NCAA Player of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe did not score in the first half and finished with four points and six rebounds. Clowney added eight points and six boards, and Bradley had six points, four rebounds, and three assists.
Kentucky shot only 11-39 in the second half with 3-13 from three and 3-4 on free throws. Overall the Catch shot 28% on 21-73, 25% from three on 5-20 and made 5-8 at the line. The Cats did win the rebounding war with 45, had seven assists, and 11 turnovers. Reeves scored 20 and Wheeler added 15, no other player had more than four points in the game.
What a great coast to coast win for the Tide. Although the Wildcats aren't rated at the moment, they are a team loaded with talent that will likely turn things around and end up in the NCAA Tournament. The Bama defense was relentless. Bediako, Clowney, Gurley, and Nick Pringle took Tshiebwe totally out of the game. Bediako in particular played an outstanding game down low. The Tide guards did a great job of getting their hands involved in the paint, slapping at the ball continually. Two straight games with under 10 turnovers is fantastic for this team considering the speed with which they play.
Oats was happy to see Coach Nick Saban with Ms. Terry and Greg Byrne sitting in floor seats. “It was great to see Coach Saban there in the front, I think his saying is make their butts quit, I think thats what we did today.” Oats thought Sears and Bediako were outstanding all game. Clowney said now that we see what we can do that “we will expect that on defense every game.” Oats also praised the crowd and said he wanted to thank them for that.
Next up for the Tide is a road trip to Fayetteville to take on the highly ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. Bama and the Hogs will tip off at 6 p.m. CT and will be shown on ESPN/ENSPU. One game at at time, but this team looks like the real deal. Enjoy Brandon Miller while you can, he only has seven more home games.