Bama Falls At Kentucky

It's easy to say that Alabama's basketball team didn't have a chance going into Lexington to take on the eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, but it was not the hopeless situation it appeared to be. The Cats weren't at full strength. But all hope was lost as Bama had a seven-minute period early in the second half when the Tide couldn't shoot and didn't defend the shot, and opportunity was lost. A close game turned into a 66-55 Kentucky win.

Alabama's losing streak is now at five games. After getting close to Top 25 ranking a couple of weeks ago, Bama is now 11-9 overall and 3-6 in Southeastern Conference games. The Wildcats improved to 17-3 overall and 7-2 in conference games.

Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum Saturday to host Tennessee. Tipoff will be at 2 p.m. CST with regional television coverage by Jefferson-Pilot.

Alabama led most of the first half, including an early 13-4 lead, and trailed by only a point at 27-26 at halftime. But Kentucky went from a 34-32 lead to a 41-32 lead when the Tide shooters went cold. And the Wildcats had no trouble making mostly uncontested shots, including a number of layups.

Alabama had a good plan for the Wildcats, and for awhile it worked very well. Bama played tough defense, mostly zone defense, and took a lot of time off the clock on offense, keeping the Wildcats out of a fast-paced rhythm and keeping the Kentucky fans out of the game. But the Wildcats picked up the defensive tempo and Alabama too often got no shot or a hurried shot. Meanwhile, Kentucky began to find the seams in Alabama's defense.

There are certain things a visiting team should never do in Rupp Arena. One is allow the Kentucky defense to force bad shots and turnovers. Bama had a lot of both. The Tide shot only 38 per cent from the field (19-50) and Alabama had 15 turnovers that led to 22 Kentucky points.

With the scored tied at 22-22 in the first half, Kennedy Winston had the ball simply taken away from him by a Kentucky player, who went the length of the court for a layup. He was fouled, made the free throw for a 25-22 lead, and Bama never led again.

Kentucky without its top players, Gerald Fitch, who averages 15.8 points per game. Bama's defense must have been prepared for Fitch instead of his back-up. Antwain Barber had never scored more than 13 points in a game in his Kentucky career. Against Bama he scored a career-high 23.

Without Fitch, the Wildcats don't shoot three-pointers very well, and Kentucky was only 4-of-15 against the Tide. Kentucky was also below average at the free throw stripe, only 10-of-17. But from the field, even including the poor three-point shooting, Kentucky hit 26-of-56, 46 per cent, despite shooting about 20 per cent for the first 10 minutes of the game.

Alabama Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried said, "You've got to give them credit. We've played a tough schedule against good ams, but I think they guarded us better than anybody has. They are big, and strong, and quick. But our guys played really hard." The coach said, "We've got to put it behind us. Now we've got a seven-game season. We've had a hard stretch, but the guys are going to keep working hard, keep their heads up."

Although it was just another loss, there were some good things for Alabama. Although he still doesn't show the quickness to play defense, Earnest Shelton continues on the road back from his knee injury and had a team-high 13 points. Winston didn't have as productive a game as he has had recently, but did contribute 12 points. Freshman Jermareo Davidson had eight points and 10 rebounds in his first trip to Lexington.

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