Exactly two weeks prior to Tuesday night’s game in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled into Rupp Arena and blitzed Kentucky, connecting on 14 threes en route to an 85-65 blowout victory over the Cats. And while the final score was much closer this time around, the end result proved to be no different, as Alabama took the contest 70-59.
As has been the case for most of the season, defensively, Kentucky did more than enough to win the game, holding the hot-shooting Tide to just 39.2% from the floor, 6-20 (30%) from three and 12 points below their scoring average. In the second half, Alabama hit just six field goals and connected on only 1-4 from downtown. But Kentucky’s inability to keep from fouling kept the Tide in it, as they went 22-26 from the free throw line in the second half alone.
The difference in the game, once again, proved to be Kentucky’s inability to execute consistently in the half court. And as he has for much of the season, after the game UK head coach John Calipari harped on the importance of sharing the ball in an effort to score more efficiently.
“Pass the ball. We had 17 turnovers again,” Calipari said. “You keep that to 10 or 12 and get your assists up to 15, 16, 17, 18 you win. You win this game.”
Kentucky shot 35.2% from the floor, the sixth time this season that they failed to connect on at least 40% of their field goal attempts. They were 6-14 from behind the arc, with Davion Mintz and Dontaie Allen being the only Wildcats able to hit from deep.
Offensively, Kentucky was led by Allen, Mintz and Olivier Sarr, who each contributed 12 points in the losing effort. Brandon Boston Jr. added eight points, Isaiah Jackson had six and Keion Brooks Jr. had four.
For 36 minutes of game action, Kentucky had managed to keep things close, forcing the Tide to attempt contested layups and limiting their ability to shoot from the outside. In fact, after a foul was called on Alabama’s Herbert Jones with 3:57 left to play, Kentucky had the ball with a 54-52 lead heading into a media timeout. And once play resumed, found Dontaie Allen wide open in the corner for a three that just rimmed out. On the following Alabama possession, Jones was fouled and sank two, tying the game. Kentucky would never lead again.
“For 37 minutes we fought like crazy,” Calipari said. “Had the ball, up two. Got the shot we wanted: missed it. Again, that’s mental toughness.”
After holding the two-point advantage with just under four minutes to play, Kentucky went 1-6 from the field over the final 3:57 while Alabama finished things off with an 18-5 run.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 5-10 on the year and 4-4 in the SEC. They’ll look to regroup before the No. 5 Texas Longhorns visit Rupp Arena for a clash with the Cats as a part of the SEC/Big12 Challenge. Tipoff is set for 8:00 pm on ESPN.