Alabama Needs Strong Effort Vs. Kentucky

Alabama basketball a second half team? One might not think so, but if statistics don’t lie, the Crimson Tide gets stronger as the game goes on. This afternoon in Coleman Coliseum Bama needs to be strong from tip to finish.

Alabama (12-4 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play) hosts No. 1 ranked and undefeated Kentucky at 3 p.m. CST today. The game is a sellout, but will be televised by ESPN.

The Crimson Tide will have a much better chance at success if Bama can get stronger as the game goes on. Alabama could use a finish like the one that resulted in a 21-2 run at the end of the game to beat Tennessee in Knoxville rather than an end-of-game scoring drought that allowed Wichita State to escape with a win over the Tide.

Thus far this season, Bama has been a better second half team. Bama has shot 40.4 per cent from the field in the first half while allowing opponents to shoot 40.9. In the second half, the Tide improves to 48.4 and the opponents have cropped to 40.5. The same in three-point shooting, Alabama 28.9 per cent in the first half and 31.6 per cent in the second half, opponents 33.8 per cent in the first half and 29.6 in the second half. In scoring, the Tide has averaged 33.3 per cent in the first half, 36.9 per cent in the second half, and opponents 30.1 per cent in the first half, 32.0 in the second half. That means Alabama is outscoring opponents by 3.2 points per first half and 4.9 points per second half.

A bigger part of that equation, though, may be which Kentucky teams shows up – the one that was taken to overtime at home against Ole Miss and to double overtime at Texas A&M, or the one that rebounded with a 49-point win over Missouri.

Historically, Alabama has played Kentucky well, particularly in Coleman Coliseum. The Tide has has won three of the last four meetings between the two teams in Coleman Coliseum. UK’s lone win during the stretch came on Jan. 24, 2009. Like all SEC teams, though, Bama has a substantial deficit in the series. This will be the 141st meeting of the teams and the Wildcats have a 103-37 advantage. The Cats have won eight of the last 10 games between the two.

The game will mark the 10th time in program history the Tide has faced the Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Bama is 4-5 in those meetings. The last time the Tide played host to the nation’s top-ranked team came on Jan. 8, 1994 when Alabama captured a 66-64 win over then-No. 1 Arkansas. The Tide has an all-time record of 4-5 when playing the top team in the AP poll.

Senior guard Levi Randolph leads Alabama in scoring (15.2 ppg), assists (2.9 apg), steals (1.6) and minutes (33.8 mpg) through the Tide’s 16 contests. The Madison native ranks fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage (.849), eighth in scoring and ninth in steals per game.

Junior guard Ricky Tarrant ranks second on the team with 13.3 ppg, while also leading the squad in threes made (23) and attempted (77). Senior guard Rodney Cooper is third on this year’s squad with 10.7 ppg this season and is second in threes made (22) in 3-point shooting (40.7 percent).

Today’s game will mark the first of two meetings in a span of two weeks between the Tide and Wildcats. Alabama and Kentucky will square off in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. CST on SEC Network.

Alabama’s 1974-75 team will be recognized at halftime.

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