If the goal was to make it respectable, mission accomplished. Although the outcome was hardly in doubt, Alabama effort was greater than ability, and as a result the Crimson Tide was able to keep it close for much of the game.
The goal, of course, is not just to be close, particularly in a home game with a big crowd. There was a time in the second half when it looked like Alabama fears of a blowout loss would materialize, but the Tide hustled its way to within six points in the final moments before Kentucky took the expected win, 67-58.
Alabama returns to action Wednesday at Missouri. The Tide returns to Coleman Coliseum next Saturday against LSU.
It was good that Alabama equaled Kentucky in second half scoring at 38-38, but that only meant that Bama lost by the margin of its halftime deficit.
Alabama fell behind by 18 points early in the second half, but fought back to trail by only 6 at 51-57 with 1:40 to play. Kentucky’s Derek Willis scored only 5 points in the game, but his three-pointer with just over a minute to play sealed the outcome.
Alabama could look at unforced turnovers (Bama had 16 total miscues, and Kentucky scored 14 points off them) and missed free throws (the Tide was 9-26 on foul shots) as self-destructing facets in the loss.
Alabama fell to 14-10 overall and 7-5 in Southeastern Conference play, while Kentucky improved to 20-5 overall, 10-2 in the league.
Neither team was very good shooting.
Kentucky made 27-62 field goals (43.5 per cent), 3-15 on three-pointers (20 per cent), and 10-18 on free throws (55.6 per cent). Bama was 23-51 on field goal tries (45.1 per cent), 3-14 on treys (21.4 per cent), and 34.6 per cent on foul shots.
Both teams scored 38 points in the paint. Kentucky had a 16-6 advantage in fast break points and 16-7 on points by backup players.
Rebounding was close, the Wildcats getting 41 (12 offensive, leading to 9 second chance points) and Alabama 38 (9 offensive and 10 second chance points).
Alabama had only four assists in the game, three by Dazon Ingram. Ingram and Braxton Key, though, had five turnovers each.
Key was the leading scorer in the game with 21 points, 17 of them in the second half, and 10 of them in the last 4:11 of the game. Ingram had 12 and Riley Norris 9. Bola Olaniyan played 24 minutes –more than other big men Donta Hall and Jimmie Taylor – and had 10 rebounds to go with his 5 points.
Kentucky was led by Malik Monk with 17 points, Edrice Adebayo with l4, and Isaiah Briscoe with 11.
Alabama trailed by 50-37 when the Tide began a fighting comeback with just over six minutes to play. Key drove the baseline for a nice reverse layup and was fouled. He made the free throw and Bama was to within 10.
Although free throw shooting was shaky, Bama got one from Olaniyan to pull to within 9 and Ingram pulled down a long rebound off a Kentucky miss and went coast-to-coast for a layup to make it Wildcats 50, Tide 43 with 4:44 to play.
It was back-and-forth with Ingram making a drive and score to close it to within 6 at 49-55, but the Tide could get no closer.
Although Kentucky had a 29-20 halftime lead, there were two notable aspects of the period. One was that Alabama had the Wildcats playing at a pace more suitable to the Tide than to UK. The other was that if Alabama could just shoot free throws it would have been a reasonably close game. The Tide was able to hit only 3-11 from the foul line. Of course, Kentucky was only 3-8.
One other thing is that Alabama had to figure out a way to stop the alley-oop. Kentucky had three in the first half.
And speaking of inside shots, Bama efforts to drive the lane offered Kentucky inside men opportunities for blocked shots. They turned in five.
Alabama’s only lead in the game came early in the first half at 7-4 following a Riley Norris trey. Kentucky came right back with a three-pointer to tie it and after taking the lead at 9-7, the Wildcats never trailed.
TIDE NOTES: Alabama went with a “big” starting lineup with Dazon Ingram at guard, Riley Norris and Braxton Key at wings, and Bola Olanyian and Donta Hall at the posts.
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Kentucky had a 29-20 halftime lead and the 29 points by the Wildcats tied for their second lowest first half output this season. Kentucky had only 26 in an 88-66 loss at Gainesville.
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