Alabama Basketball Upsets Kentucky
Alabama went over eight minutes, from the 11:31 mark to 3:05, between field goals. But after leading 37-30 at halftime and taking a 52-32 lead with 15:27 to play, Bama got sloppy as the Wildcats whittled that lead to four less than 10 minutes and down to one point as the clock reached the three-minute mark. But Kentucky could never quite catch up.
A tipin and a couple of free throws by Tony Mitchell got the Tide ship righted, but it was a turnover by the Wildcats, recovered by Ben Eblen that sealed the deal.
A flurry of miscues in the final 40 seconds added to the drama. First, Kentucky's Doron Lamb was called for a charge with 39.6 seconds to play and Alabama holding a 67-66 lead. Before the Tide could use all 35 seconds of the shot (and game) clock, Senario Hillman charged with 10.8 seconds to play. Then Kentucky turned it over and Eblen came out with the ball. He was fould with 2.8 seconds to play and made one free throw for the 68-66 lead.
Kentucky's final desperation shot from near halfcourt missed badly. The win improved Alabama to 11-7 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Kentucky fell to 14-4 and 2-2.
JaMychal Green gets high marks for dominating inside. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Cats, but committed six turnovers, several of them during Kentucky's comeback. Tony Mitchell, who was stuck on the bench for long periods with foul trouble, had 15 points and seven rebounds in only 25 minutes of play.
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "It's an understatement to say it's a great win for our team. I was so proud of our guys for the way they hung together."
Grant said he thought his team got caught up in the emotion of its big run "and wasted energy. It's a 40-minute game. Kentucky is a very good basketball team and we knew they would make a run. It kind of got to us in a mental way. We had a big cushion, so we were able to survive it.
"We've hung our hat on the defense all year, so it was good to get the win with defense.
Green said, "I knew it was going to be a physical game tonight and I thought if we out-rebounded them we had a chance to win."
Kentucky put four men in double figures, led by Terrence Jones with 17. Although Jones has not started the past few games, he is the Wildcats top scorer and rebounder and he played 31 minutes. Jones's points were the only ones contributed by Kentucky subs.
Alabama goes on the road Saturday to Auburn. Tipoff against the Tigers in the new Auburn basketball arena is at 5 p.m. CST.
Alabama had an excellent start to the second half, scoring the first 10 points and going out to a 47-30 lead.
The Tide outscored Kentucky from the field. Bama made 25-56 field goals (44.6 per cent) to the Wildcats 23-61 (37.7 per cent). Alabama was also better from the three-point line, where Kentucky has been best in the SEC. The Tide, which has been next to awful on three-pointers, made 7-14 (50 per cent), while the Wildcats made 7-21 (33 per cent). Kentucky made 13-22 free throws and Bama 11-17.
Alabama won the rebounding battle, 41-34, but gave that back on turnovers as Bama made 19, Kentucky 12. The Wilcats scored 24 points off Tide turnovers, Alabama only 9 points. In the paint it was about even, Alabama 32, Kentucky 30.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari said, "They man-handled us. We just have young guys and we made those bad possessions. But you have to give Alabama credit. They came out of the gate. They made the shots they had to make and they muscled us out around the basket.
"I told our guys if we could get it to 9 or 10 points we'd have a chance to win the game.
"But give Alabama credit. They earned this win and deserved to win."
With Alabama leading the SEC in scoring defense, much had been made in pre-game analysis of the task for the Crimson Tide. Bama has had great success when holding opponents to 60 points or less. But Kentucky game into the game averaging 80 points per game.
At halftime, Bama had done its work, holding the Wildcats to half of 60. The Tide had a 37-30 lead.
Things did not start well for Alabama. The Tide turned the ball over on its first possession. Kentucky did what Kentucky does best. The Wildcats made a couple of passes and Doron Lamb drilled a three-point shot. Moments later the Wildcats got it out to 5-0 on a short jumper by Darius Miller.
Alabama finally got on the board with a Tony Mitchell free throw and Trevor Releford got the first field goal with a reverse layup off a steal.
Bama switched from man-to-man to zone and had some success, though UK did get its five-point lead back at 15-10. But from there it was mostly Alabama.
Senario Hillman hit a trey and then with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half, Ben Eblen scored a layup off a steal forced by Hillman to tie the game at 15-15.
The Tide kept the lead throughout the remainder of the first half (the largest eight points, 37-29, on a Charvez Davis trey) as the Tide hit 45.5 per cent of its field goals (15-33) while holding Kentucky to only 35.5 per cent (11-31). From three-point range, Bama was good on 4-10, Kentucky only 2-10.
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