Kentucky Pours It On Crimson Tide
"They came out right from the beginning from an offensive standpoint and were very successful," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "We were playing catch-up the whole game. I was very proud of the fight our guys showed.
"They did a good job of doubling down in the post, and jamming the lane up to stop our offensive entry passes. Give Kentucky credit They were able to do what they needed to do."
There were few bright spots for the Tide in this one. For the record, Tony Mitchell led all scorers with 16 points, and was joined in double figures by JaMychal Green (12, with nine boards) and Trevor Releford (10 points, four assists). Charvez Davis had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting behind the arc.
Bama shot 41.5 per cent for the day. Problem was, Kentucky hit 50 per cent from the floor, and 45 per cent from 3-point range (9-for-20). The Cats became the second team this year to win the battle for points in the paint over Bama, 28-26.
In the first half, the Tide defense had no answer for Wildcats freshman guard Duron Lamb. He scored early and often, and by intermission already had 10 of is 15 points.
"It was a good game. We really guarded. That's what I'm looking for out of this group," said Wildcats Coach John Calipari. "
Matters weren't helped when Green went to the bench with his second foul with just under ten minutes left in the half. Ninety seconds later, Mitchell lay writhing in agony by the Tide bench during a media time out, but did return in the second half after shaking off a calf injury.
Even though Green returned a the six minute mark, he was ineffective defensively against Harrelson, fearing a third foul. Those things factored in to Kentucky's 37-21 lead at intermission. That's the second straight game the Tide registered a 21-point first half.
"They made shots. That stretched our defense," said Grant. "(Josh) Harrelson did a great job of being in the right place at the right time. When you stretch your defense and you have to put a guy and a half on the shooters coming off, it opens up opportunities for other guys. They came out right from the beginning, and from an offensive standpoint, they had success early. And we were playing catch up really for the entire game.
"Give them credit, they made, ran their offense very well, made open shots, they made contested shots. We had a tough time finding the rhythm on the offensive end in the first half, dug a hole for ourselves, but I'm certainly proud of the fight that our guys showed. And the thing we talked about was playing 40 minutes. That's what we try to do every game, and I think our guys went out there and did that today. I'm certainly very proud of our group, proud of the guys that I had the pleasure of coaching."
The Cats held that 16-point lead even though their top two players, freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, were a combined 0-for-9 from the floor.
Alabama tallied but six points in the final 9:04 of the half.
In the second half, Knight exploded for 10 of his 12 points to make sure there was not Tide comeback on this day. He got plenty of help. DeAndre Liggins and Harrelson each had 14, and Darius Miller's 10 made it five Cats in double digits.
Kentucky (23-8, 11-7 SEC) will face the Florida for the tourney title and automatic NCAA bid Sunday. Alabama (21-11, 13-5) will convene at Coleman Coliseum to watch the NCAA Selection Show on CBS at 5 p.m. CST.
And, as Calipari brought up when asked about Bama's chances: "Who knows what the (selection) committee has already done?"
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