After all, the Crimson Tide entered Saturday’s game against the Wildcats having never lost to a John Calipari squad at Coleman Coliseum since he took the UK job in 2009.
That well-publicized tidbit may have done nothing but focus Kentucky’s resolve. The No. 1 Wildcats used an 18-4 run midway through the second half to turn a single-digit game into a 70-48 victory.
"This team loves days off, I know that," Calipari said with a laugh. The UK boss had promised his team a break from practice if they played with the focus and intensity he was seeking against the Tide. "When you tell them stuff, they really respond."
Did they ever. Kentucky, which led by 35-17 at the half, closed the game with ruthless efficiency. The Cats missed only one field goal from the 14:55 mark to the 2:31 mark of the second half to lead by as many as 28 points. Reserve guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, both freshmen, were key factors in the decisive run, combining to knock down three shots from behind the arc.
Booker led Kentucky (17-0, 4-0 SEC) with 13 points. Ulis followed with 11. Sophomore center Dakari Johnson also added 11 points for the Cats.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:
WHAT WE LIKED: Coleman Coliseum has always been a tough venue for Kentucky, which brings out the best in the football-crazed Crimson Tide faithful. The Cats showed up focused and ready to play from the opening tip, darting out to a 12-4 lead. The only hiccup came in the opening moments of the second half, but UK responded to Bama’s mini-run with a knockout punch of its own.
KEY MOMENT: After Bama sliced the lead to 39-30 with 13:12 to go, UK responded with a 10-0 spurt that featured scoring plays from Johnson, Ulis, Booker and Willie Cauley-Stein. Moments later, back to back 3s by Ulis and Booker erased any thoughts of a Tide comeback.
STAT OF THE DAY: The Cats were 16-of-18 at the free throw line, 89 percent. They only put Alabama on the line seven times, leading to three points.
BY THE NUMBERS:
1 – Buckets for Bama in the final 9:20 of the first half.
3 - Consecutive halves for a UK opponent to score fewer than 20 points.
8 – Cats have made eight or more from beyond the 3-point arc in five of their last six games, lifting season percentage to 35 percent after slow start to season.
71 – Margin of victory in UK’s last two games since being deemed “vulnerable” by some in the national media.
QUOTABLE: "I’m liking my team.” – UK coach John Calipari.