Tide Plays Well, But FallsTo Cats

Alabama fought the good fight. But "good" wasn't enough. The Crimson Tide was playing against what may be the nation's best team, second-ranked Kentucky, in Rupp Arena. Still, it was primarily the fact that the Wildcats got to the free throw line 21 more times than Bama that was the difference in the game.

Alabama has zero players who could start for Kentucky. The Southeastern Conference has zero officials who would ever give the visiting team a fair shake in Lexington (and that goes back about 80 years). Nevertheless, the struggling Crimson Tide made a game of it against Kentucky before falling 66-55 Tuesday night.

The Wildcats scored the final five points of the game—three free throws and a run-out lay-up—to end any miracle hopes of the Crimson Tide.

The loss was the fourth in a row for Coach Anthony Grant's Bama team, which has now fallen to 3-7 in SEC play and 13-11 overall. Kentucky improved to 23-1, including 8-1 in league games and 15-0 on the home court.

Alabama gets a little breather after having played three games in six days, all losses. Bama returns to action at 3 p.m. Saturday hosting Arkansas. The Razorbacks stomped Alabama, 71-59, in Fayetteville earlier this season.

That Kentucky defeated Alabama was not a surprise. The Wildcats have exceptional talent, including three of the best freshmen players in college basketball. John Wall led the Cats with 22 points and the guard also had 10 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins, the 6-11, 260-pound Alabamian, had 16 points and 13 rebounds. The third freshman star, Eric Bledsoe, another former Alabama prep star, had eight points.

Still, Alabama's defense was probably good enough. The Wildcats had been averaging over 82 points per game. Bama held Kentucky to only 22 field goals and only 46 per cent shooting. The Wildcats made only 3-16 three-pointers. But the home team got to shoot a lot of free throws, 31 of them, and making 19 foul shots to only nine by Alabama (which shot only 10) was the real difference. The much bigger Wildcats had only a seven rebound margin.

The problem for Alabama was on offense. Bama shot only 33 per cent from the field, and missed a half dozen lay-ups.

Freshman Tony Mitchell was Bama's top performer with 13 points and seven rebounds. JaMychal Green had 11 points and six rebounds. Senario Hillman scored 10 points, including the first four of the game as Alabama took an early 11-6 lead.

Kentucky had a 31-24 halftime lead. Both teams had scored 24 points from the field, but Kentucky was 7-10 on free throws and Alabama did not have a foul shot opportunity in the first half. Just before intermission the Wildcats got two big plays, a lay-up and foul shot by Wall and a three-point shot by 6-9, 235-pound Pat Patterson.

Kentucky had as much as a 14-point lead in the second half and Alabama was never closer than five points.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he thought his team had opportunities, but that Kentucky's talent and 31 free throw opportunities were too much to overcome. "They were too big and too physical," he said. "But we left some things on the table."

Grant gave Kentucky full credit for being an outstanding team. He also said his team played with great heart. "Our guys competed," he said.

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