For 37 minutes, Kentucky was right there with No. 9 Alabama, which had just demolished the Cats in Rupp Arena 85-65 a few weeks ago. UK led 54-52 with 3:57 left to go in the game and possession of the ball — the exact scenario that the coaching staff could have hoped for.
On that possession coming out of a timeout, redshirt freshman Dontaie Allen had a wide-open corner three that could’ve jolted UK to victory, but it rimmed out and Alabama proceeded to finish on a 18-11 run to finally sweep Kentucky for the first time since the 1988-89 season. It was like the Bama players were more ready for the final moments, and the toughness that played to UK’s advantage for much of the ballgame flipped.
“We got out-toughed. Not throughout the game. We fought like crazy. The last three minutes, dudes backed away,” UK Head Coach John Calipari said. “(We were) Playing – you ready? – not to lose vs. playing to win. Play. We’re running simple stuff with, put it in guys’ hands.”
Kentucky held the Crimson Tide to it’s second lowest amounts of triples made in a game this season (6), and held them under 40% shooting, which the Cats have done to five of their last six opponents. Without a doubt, their defensive game plan was as good as the Tide have faced in SEC play, but the failure to execute offensively down the stretch just killed them.
“I think for us it’s just staying locked in all the way. All the way through the 40 minutes. We see what we can do for a good part of the game. We did some great things defensively. We just can’t break down at the end. We can’t let go. We’ve got three more minutes to go or four or whatever it is,” transfer Olivier Sarr said.
The Cats had five turnovers in the final four minutes, catapulting their total to 17 for the game, while just finishing with 11 assists. They also made just one field goal for the rest of the game after transfer guard Davion Mintz nailed a three to put them up 54-52 with 4:27 to go. Having finished with just 59 points, Kentucky is now 0-10 when held to 65 or less. Simply put, those numbers are not going to win many basketball games.