Will Tide Go On?

Alabama had an 11-point lead with less than seven minutes to play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Nashville Friday afternoon. It could be said that Kentucky rallied. Or it could be said that Alabama was unable to finish the job. In any event, Bama is out of the SEC Tournament and now must wait until Sunday afternoon to see if it is bound for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

Kentucky came from 10 points down in the first half and 11 points down in the second half to dump Alabama, 68-61, in Nashville's Gaylord Center Friday afternoon. Bama did not score in the final four moments of either half. The swoon was reminiscent of Alabama's late season loss at Arkansas, when Bama watched an 18-point lead melt into a loss.

Now the over-achieving, undermanned Crimson Tide is at the mercy of the NCAA Selection Committee, which on Sunday afternoon will announce the at-large invitees to the 65-team field for the national championship tournament.

Alabama has good, though not overwhelming, credentials. The Tide did go through the SEC regular season at 10-6 and had wins over all the top SEC foes. Bama is currently at 17-12 on the year and played a tough schedule. Bama is currently on a two-game losing streak.

Alabama built as much as a 10-point first half lead at 20-10, but the Wildcats gave a preview of what was to come in the second half by closing with a 13-2 run and taking a 23-22 halftime lead.

That run would pale compared to the one Kentucky had at the end of the game. Alabama led 58-47 with 6:19 to play. The Wildcats outscored the Crimson Tide by 20-3 at crunch time. Alabama, which had beaten Kentucky by four points in Lexington in the regular season meeting, missed the front end of a one-and-one with the score tied, then couldn't get a close-in shot to drop in the waning moments when Kentucky had only a two-point lead. The Wildcats closed out the scoring with free throws around a breakaway layup.

Freshman Alonzo Gee was a high point for Bama, coming off the bench and scoring 18 second half points to key the Tide effort. Gee, who hit seven of 12 field goals, including three of four three-pointers, also had eight rebounds. But Alabama's outside shooting by two other regularly productive players was horrible. Although Ron Steele scored 13 points, he hit only three of 15 shots, making three of ten three-pointers. Jean Felix was only one of nine, making one of six treys.

Jermareo Davidson had a good game with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Alabama has only seven scholarshipped players. The Wildcats, which would be embarrassed to have that few former prep All-America players available, were able to play an up-tempo game with 13 players seeing action.

It was a double good news day for Kentucky as in the other game in the bracket South Carolina upset Tennessee, so the Wildcats won't have to meet the Vols in Saturday's semifinal game.

Alabama benefitted from very poor Kentucky shooting in the first half. The Wildcats made only nine of ee field goal attempts, only 27.3 per cent. But the Tide didn't take great advantage, hitting only eight of 25 for 32 per cent. Both teams heated up in the second half, but the Cats heated up more, making 16 of 30 including seven of 13 treys to finish at 39.7 per cent for the game. Alabama shot 36.7 per cent for the game. Alabama did have a 35-25 lead in rebounds, but much of that was off-set with the Tide having 15 turnovers to only nine for Kentucky.

Kentucky (22-11) was led by Joe Crawford with 14 points. Patrick Sparks and Bobby Perry had 13 each and Randolph Morris 11. Perry had nine of his points in Kentucky's stretch drive.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried was able to give Steele a rare one-minute break in the first half, his first rest after playing every minute of every SEC game this season.

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