RECAP: No. 1 Kentucky 70, Alabama 55

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A concerted effort to jump-start its surprisigly-lackluster post offense was an overwhelming success for No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday in a 70-55 win over Alabama.

The No. 1 Wildcats got a combined 38 points from big men Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson, who collectively made 13 of their 16 shots on a night when UK posted a season-high 59-percent from the field.

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“We're getting better at it,” UK coach John Calipari said. “But today was great because Willie and Karl, we threw them the ball, they went 8-of-8. Well if your bigs go 8-of-8 you're going to shoot over 50 percent.”

Kentucky also got solid contributions from its backcourt, including 11 points from Devin Booker and 10 from Aaron Harrison. Most of those, by design, came off the emphasized inside-out approach.

“Karl started out the game really well, and Dakari had the big second half as well,” Harrison said. “We had to play through those guys tonight.”

"Everything was clicking tonight," Towns added.

The victory in front of 24,351 at Rupp Arena left Kentucky (21-0, 8-0 SEC) as the last undefeated team in the country following No. 4 Duke’s 69-63 win at No. 2 Virginia moments earlier.

Alabama (13-8, 3-5 SEC) shot a respectable 45.9 percent against the Cats’ top-ranked national defense, but was hurt badly by 13 turnovers, 10 of which came before the midway point of the first half as UK built a 37-24 lead at the break.

Shannon Hale led the Tide with 13 points, while Levi Randolph and Retin Obasohan chipped in with 12 and 11, respectively.

Kentucky played without freshman forward Trey Lyles, who was out of action due to an illness. Calipari said he wasn't sure about a timetable for Lyles' return to the court.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the night’s highs and lows:

WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky made sure its big men gained some early confidence after being carried by the backcourt in recent SEC games. Towns had eight points by the 10:51 mark of the first half as the Cats built an early double-digit lead.

KEY MOMENT: There wasn’t a signature run or turning point in this one, but UK absolutely smothered the Tide during the first 10 minutes of play. Bama had six turnovers by the second media timeout while attempting only six shots from the field. Once they settled down, the Tide played mostly even with the Cats the rest of the night.

STAT OF THE DAY: UK had just five turnovers on the night, one shy of its season low of four versus Columbia on Dec. 10. The Cats have had single-digit turnovers in three of their last six games.

1 – For the second game in a row, UK was credited with just one blocked shot. The Cats are now tied with Texas atop the blocks per game leaderboard (7.8) in the NCAA.
45.1 - The combined shooting percentage Bama has posted in two games against UK this season. The Tide now owns two of the best shooting nights against the Cats on the season, but have lost by 22 and 15 points.
8:50 – The time remaining in the first half when Bama finally reached double figures against UK’s aggressive defense.
3-for-4 – Treys knocked down by UK sharpshooter Devin Booker, who raised his season percentage behind the arc to .593.
103:43 - The time UK has trailed in games this season out of a possible 855 minutes played. The Cats trailed for only 20 seconds on Saturday against Bama.

QUOTABLE:“This team, the question is, how good can we be? And I don't know yet. I'm trying to get guys to go to that next level. I'm prodding and pushing and screaming and yelling ‘Go!’ because I really do want to see how good can we really be.” – UK coach John Calipari on the significance of being the last undefated team in the country.

UP NEXT: Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at Rupp Arena against Georgia in a 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPNU. The Bulldogs (14-6, 5-3 SEC) lost 67-50 on Saturday at South Carolina.

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