Short-handed Tide Comes Up Short At UK

This is not the Kentucky team most have come to expect. Although the Wildcats had run off four consecutive victories leading up to Saturday's visit from Alabama, Kentucky has been decidedly unimpressive this season with losses to the likes of Gardner-Webb.

This is not the team Alabama expected to have, either. And on Saturday, with its best player sidelined with illness, the Crimson Tide was even more ineffective. Although Bama played well enough to take advantage of a cold-shooting, turnover-prone Kentucky in the first half in Lexington Saturday, in the end it was a runaway victory for the Wildcats, another disappointing loss for the Tide.

Alabama went to Rupp Arena Saturday without the Tide's leading scorer and rebounder, Richard Hendrix. Hendrix was ill and did not even leave the team hotel while Bama played against the Cats.

Although Alabama held its own in the first half, Bama never had the lead in the second half as the Wildcats pulled out to as much as a 15-point lead late in the game and finished with a 62-52 win over the Tide.

Alabama is now 2-7 in Southeastern Conference play and 13-11 overall. The Tide will host the Ole Miss Rebels at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Coleman Coliseum.

There are givens when most SEC teams venture into Rupp Arena. One is that the Wildcats will usually have more highly-regarded players. Another is that the crowd can be intimidating. A third is that SEC officiating, never very good, is also critically one-sided in favor of the Cats in Lexington. It is likely Bama could not have won against Kentucky in any event Saturday, but a handful of officials' decisions (calls and no calls) went a long way in sealing Alabama's fate. One of those missed calls so infuriated Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried that he drew a technical foul.

Following the game, Gottfried sounded the familiar refrain, being disappointed in yet another defeat, but expressing pleasure in the effort expended by his players.

Gottfried is in his 10th year as Alabama's head coach and his record in SEC games is now even at 84-84. In his previous nine years he has had three winning seasons in SEC competition, four losing seasons, and two break-even records. Alabama would have to win the remainder of its SEC games – seven contests – to have a winning conference record this year.

With Hendrix out, Bama had to hope that other players would elevate their games. A couple of players who have had almost no playing time did just that. Back-up inside players Yamene Coleman and Justin Knox did their best to pick up the slack from Hendrix' loss. Coleman had 10 points and Knox six points.

Mykal Riley did well to score 19 points.

But Bama's other starters and back-ups did not have good days. Particularly ineffective was Alonzo Gee, Bama's second-leading scorer on the year, who had only five points.

Starting with a three-point Riley shot on the Tide's first possession of the game, Alabama led almost the entire first half. Bama had as much as an eight-point lead in the first half before the Wildcats took their only lead at 28-27 with eight seconds before intermission. That was the halftime score.

In the second half the Tide managed only a couple of early ties, the last at 32-32, before the Wildcats began to pull away. Alabama scored only four field goals in the first 17-plus minutes of the second half.

"We just didn't score enough points," Gottfried said. He gave credit to Kentucky's defense.

Alabama made only 37 per cent of its field goals (19-51), including making only 4-17 from three-point range (23.5 per cent). Alabama and Kentucky had the same number of field goals and three-point field goals. The Wildcats were 19-39 on field goals (45 per cent) and made 4-13 treys (31 per cent). The difference in the game could be said to be free throws.

Kentucky went to the foul line 26 times and made 20 (77 per cent). The notoriously poor-shooting Crimson Tide wasn't hampered by the inefficiency of Hendrix in that department and shot a respectable (for Bama) 66.7 per cent, but had only 15 opportunities, making 10.

The Wildcats won the rebounding battle, 31-25, but that was offset by the Wildcats having 18 turnovers (12 in the first half) to the Tide's 13.

There were no surprises about who led Kentucky with Ramel Bradley getting 19 points, Joe Crawford 13 and freshman Patrick Patterson 12.

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