Coach Mark Gottfried's Crimson Tide was first in the nation at the beginning of the month. In the next poll Bama will surely be absent. But after three consecutive Southeastern Conference losses, there is beginning to be doubt this team will be in action when tournament play begins in March.
Alabama, ranked 15th in the nation prior to Saturday night's game against eighth-ranked Kentucky in Coleman Coliseum, was never in the game with the Wildcats. The Kentucky defense smothered the Bama inside game and cruised to a 63-46 win over the Tide. Alabama is now 12-5 overall and 2-4 in SEC play.
Alabama does not have a midweek game this week. Bama will host LSU next Saturday, a game that will tip off at 4 p.m. CST.
Alabama's senior inside players, Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker, combined for 0-13 field goal shooting. "Kentucky is very big---tall and long," said Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried. "They disrupted our guys better than any team has this year."
The Crimson Tide managed to hit just 10 of 42 shots for 23.8 per cent shooting from the field. Bama was good on four of 14 three-point shots, 28.6 per cent. Although Alabama was not sparkling on free throw shooting, Alabama shot so many -- 30 -- that making 22 of them was a significant part of the Alabama offense.
Senior center Kenny Walker talked about Kentucky's defensive effort. "They ran triple teams at us (Walker and Dudley), then they trapped the ball in the corner. It was embarrassing."
"We wanted to double team their post players every time they caught the ball," explained Wildcat Head Coach Tubby Smith. "Make Dudley pass the ball out to their second or third option. We wanted to make them take tough shots."
Both teams opened the game playing very tough defense. Kentucky kept it up for 40 minutes, while Alabama slacked off with the frustration of a widening scoring gap.
Smith had his team ready. "We played excellent team defense," Smith said. "We wanted to take certain things away from Alabama. Our players did a good job of adhering to our game plan. It was an excellent defensive effort all around."
While Kentucky was shutting down Alabama in the middle, allowing only 10 points in the paint, the efficient offense of the Wildcats enabled Kentucky to shoot a number of layups, a total of 40 points in the paint. The Wildcats shot 50 per cent in the second half, breaking from a 26-21 halftime lead, and finished with 43.1 per cent field goal shooting.
Emmett Thomas was the only Alabama player scoring in double figures, picking up 13 points. While Dudley was held to only five free throws and Walker to only four foul shots, both were in double figures in rebounding, Dudley with 12 and Walker with 10. Alabama had a slim 36-32 edge in rebounding. Alabama was guilty of 15 turnovers, Kentucky only seven.
Alabama held a lead very early in the game, but after a field goal at the 16:37 mark, Bama did not score from the field again until the 4:45 mark.
Alabama had a 28-game winning streak in Coleman Coliseum prior to the loss. For the week, Alabama went 0-2 with losses by a combined 46 points. The Tide was a 76-57 loser to Mississippi in Oxford last Tuesday.
"They're a very explosive and athletic team," Smith said of Alabama. "Obviously they're struggling now to make their shots. I don't know that I've seen our team play better defense."