Kentucky outlasted Alabama 76-67 to improve to 12-3 on the season and 3-0 in conference play.
The Cats saw a 15-point lead dwindle to a one-possession game in the second half, but prevailed and made the plays to win down the stretch.
Coming out of a timeout with five minutes to go, Kentucky was up 63-60 with a chance to stretch out the lead, and a simple but perfect inbounds play gave sophomore sharp-shooter Immanuel Quickley a three, in which he made, to give the Cats a 66-60 lead.
Quickley once again had an excellent game, scoring 19 points on 6-10 shooting from the field and 5-6 from three, while also grabbing five rebounds and finishing with three assists.
“Steaming hot,” Quickley said grading his shooting. “If you touch me, you might burn.”
“If he (Quickley) shoots 5-6 from three, I don’t know who’s better than them in the country,” Alabama Coach Nate Oats said.
“He’s a confident kid, and what he does, he spends so much time in the gym, he expects to make them,” UK Coach John Calipari said.
Calipari said Quickley’s work ethic reminded him of former Kentucky players Tyler Herro and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who were both gym-rats themselves.
Coming into the game, Alabama had hit more threes per game than any team in the SEC (11.1) and was second in the conference in percentage from downtown (37.2%), meanwhile Kentucky was 12th in the SEC in three-point percentage (30.1%) and last in threes made per game (4.7).
The team that shot better from outside for the game, however, was UK, as they finished the game hitting more threes and at a higher percentage, going 9-15 (60%) while Alabama went 4-21 (19%).
“Coming in the game, there are 353 Division I teams. Kentucky is 351st in shots coming from three, so you don’t think they’re going to kill you from three,” Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats said.
While Kentucky was defending great against three-point shooters, that gave opportunities for Alabama to get on the offensive boards and get points in the paint. The Crimson Tide finished with 16 offensive rebounds (10 for UK) and 44 points in the paint (20 for UK).
UK Head Coach John Calipari was willing to give up some inside struggles to keep Alabama from getting hot from three.
“Some of the stuff we gave up, we did it on purpose,” Calipari said. “If we give up something, give up a tough two. Give up a layup. Don’t — let’s not leave somebody wide open, we’re not doing that.”
Kentucky has been looking for another player to step up along with the team’s more consistent contributors, and got that a little bit today with sophomore forward EJ Montgomery, who finished with eight points on 4-6 shooting and six rebounds.
UK Head Coach John Calipari was satisfied with not just the improving play of Montgomery, but freshman forwards Khalil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr. who also showed signs of improvement.
“They were all better,” Calipari said. “What I keep saying (to the players struggling); ‘Please let me coach you.’ You’ve got to shut the clutter down.”
The Cats next go on the road at South Carolina on Wednesday as they look to keep a perfect record in SEC play.