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Turnovers Could Be Key For Kentucky In Battle At Alabama

Kentucky’s Keion Brooks Jr. scored over Alabama’s Herbert Jones as Alabama defeated Kentucky 85-65 on January 12, 2021. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Sitting at 5-9, Kentucky has a lot of work to do in terms of improving their resume to attain any kind of postseason status. On Tuesday, they have a huge opportunity against red-hot Alabama, who currently sit at first in the league with a 13-3 (8-0 SEC) record.

Not only would this game be an opportunity for UK to get more momentum following a home win against LSU, the matchup also calls for revenge after Bama demolished UK 85-65 in Rupp Arena a few weeks ago. A lot of the reason the Crimson Tide have been on such a tear in SEC play is their elite three-point shooting, as they currently sit at first in the league with 11.2 triples made per game. Bama nailed 14/30 triples against the Cats in that earlier matchup, proving lackluster defense on the arc to be demoralizing.

“That’s what they do (shoot threes),” UK assistant coach Bruiser Flint said. “They barely shoot layups in their warmup line…so they’re going to shoot a lot of them.”

If you look at the shot chart, Bama’s ability to make threes also allowed them to drive into the lane for layups with ease in the first matchup. In fact, the Tide never even attempted a shot between the paint and three-point line, a common theme in their rage in SEC play. Looking forward to Tuesday’s game, Kentucky will HAVE TO do a better job contesting those shots.

Not only that, but assistant coach Bruiser Flint pointed out multiple times today that turnovers have been a glaring weakness for UK, as anyone watching the team this season knows. Against Bama, they turned the ball over 19 times, which gave the Tide plenty of scoring opportunities. Overall, Kentucky ranks 10th in the SEC with 14.9 turnovers per game and 13th with a 0.76 assist/turnover ratio. They did a much better job managing that against LSU, and will have to again on Tuesday.

“Been our Achilles heel all year — points off turnovers,” Flint said. “If you give it to them off turnovers, they’re going to take advantage.”

Grad transfer forward Olivier Sarr insinuated today that the Cats do in fact view the matchup as a revenge game after their first lackluster performance, even saying a little trash talk in the previous outing is motivating them.

“It’s helping bring the best out of us. It’s a good challenge,” Sarr said. “We’re going to war over there and I know the guys are ready for us. They talked a lot during the game so we’ve got good motivation.”

If the Cats can in fact pull this upset off (yes, as crazy as that word placement seems), it can give themselves major confidence going forward.

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