Defense Good, But Not Enough To Win

Alabama didn't have what it took to beat Kentucky in a basketball game in Coleman Coliseum Saturday, but the Crimson Tide showed grit in playing one of the best defensive games a Bama squad has played in many years. Even in a so-so year and maybe having a blah game, the Wildcats have plenty of good basketball players and holding them to 61 points was an achievement.

Alabama fought the good fight for about 34 of the 40 minutes Saturday before Kentucky took control and went on to a 61-51 win over Alabama. With just under six minutes to play, Bama and Kentucky were tied at 45-45. From there it was Kentucky 16, Alabama 6.

To the surprise of no one, Alabama couldn't stop Jodie Meeks. The leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference and third leading scorer in the nation got a little over his average by hitting for 27 points. But that is only half what he got in a record-setting performance against Tennessee a few weeks ago. The Wildcats' outstanding post player, 6-9, 235-pound Patrick Patterson was held in check, albeit partly because of his foul trouble. Patterson played only 27 minutes and finished with only six points and five rebounds.

Alabama held Kentucky to only 19 points in the first half and about 18 points below the Wildcats' average for the game. Kentucky shot only 38.8 per cent from the field with the Tide's defense forcing a number of low percentage shots. The Wildcats had 23 turnovers, and sometimes even when Alabama's harassing defense didn't force a turnover it got Kentucky out of rhythm. Bama blocked seven shots.

It wasn't perfect defense. Alabama players do not make a quick transition from offense to defense and Kentucky got plenty of run-out layups. But on the whole, the Tide's defense was good enough to win.

Both coaches acknowledged Alabama's defensive effort. Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "We did enough defensively. We never could get our offense in rhythm.

"We guarded them pretty well.

"Jodie (Meeks) had to earn his points. Our guys worked extremely hard on him to limit his looks." Meeks connected on 10-18 field goals, including 3-5 three-point shots.

"We couldn't generate enough offense, but our defense was good," Gottfried concluded.

Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie said he thought his team "played great." He called Bama "a very good team."

He gave Alabama credit for Patterson's lack of production (3-6 on field goals and only six points). "They did a great job of preventing us from ball reversal," the Kentucky coach said.

Gillispie offered Bama hope in sharing one of his thoughts. "I'm a believer that as your defense gets better, your offense improves."

If Alabama can maintain--perhaps improve--it's defense, there might be some unexpected wins down the road.

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