Tough Assignment

Both Alabama and Kentucky had unsatisfactory Southeastern Conference-opening games, both the Crimson Tide and the Wildcats losing home contests. But Alabama's loss goes a little further.

When Alabama lost to Ole Miss, it also lost its leading player in Chuck Davis. Meanwhile, Kentucky was given a gift from heaven, the NCAA going against its rules of amateurism and restoring 6-10 Randolph Morris to eligibility this season. Morris had 10 points and seven rebounds and two rebounds in his first game. Still, Kentucky lost at home to Vanderbilt, 57-52, in the only SEC game it has played.

This does not appear to be the normal dominant Kentucky team. The Wildcats are accustomed to having about a dozen Parade All-America players, but are having to struggle along with only about a half dozen this year. Still, Kentucky is expected to be a heavy favorite to defeat Alabama.

Kentucky is 10-5, but is on a two-game losing streak. The Wildcats were blown out by Kansas, 73-46, in their tune-up for SEC play. Still, Kentucky has a 73-61 win over powerful Louisville, and the Cats losses are to very good teams–Iowa, North Carolina, and Indiana, in addition to Kansas and Vandy.

Coach Mark Gottfried's squad is coming off a very satisfactory win, a 56-52 decision over Auburn in Auburn that was the Crimson Tide's sixth straight win over its cross-state rival.

Kentucky has been ultrasuccessful in Rupp Arena, where the Crimson Tide and Wildcats will tip off at 1 p.m. EST (Noon central time) Saturday. The game will be nationally telecast by CBS. Kentucky has an all-time record of 218-26, 89.3 per cent, in Rupp.

Kentucky shot 42 per cent from three-point range in its first eight games, but has fallen off to only 23 per cent in its last seven games.

There is some question about the starting line-ups for both teams. Kentucky will start star guard Rajon Rondo (the only player in the SEC in the top ten in scoring, 14.2 points per game, rebounding, 8.0 per game, and assists), guard Patrick Sparks, guard Joe Crawford, and forward Sheray Thomas (6-7, 230). The other starter will be either the 6-10, 266-pound Morris or seven-foot, 270-pound junior Lukasz Obrzut, who has scored just four points in the last four games.

Alabama's announced starting lineup does not include the star of the win over Auburn. Freshman Alonzo Gee had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but is not listed as a probable starter by the Tide. Instead, Bama lists 6-9 senior Evan Brock, who struggles as a shooter. The other four starters will be freshman point guard Brandon Hollinger, sophomore guard Ronald Steele, freshman forward Richard Hendrix, and junior center Jermareo Davidson.

Kentucky, which has won seven of the last 11 SEC regular season championships and 10 of the last 14 SEC Tournament titles, dominates Bama as it does all other SEC opponents. The Wildcats have a 94-33 bulge over Bama. Alabama's last win over the Wildcats in Lexington was in 2002.

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