The Wildcats are used to playing spoiler to Alabama. Two years ago, Kentucky snapped a 28-game Alabama home winning streak in Tuscaloosa. The Tide could have been playing for the Cats for the honor of winning the SEC title outright, but instead, they dropped a game to LSU. Now the Tide must beat Kentucky just to maintain their slim SEC West Division lead, "We'd love to have won that one and sit here with the West clinched, playing for the outright championship," said Alabama senior shooting guard Earnest Shelton. "But instead we've got our backs against the wall. We really, really need to win this game."
The Wildcats' play of late has been up and down. Following a slim home win over Florida, The Cats looked lackluster in an ugly win over Georgia, who had lost seven of their last eight games. The Cats played as poorly as they have all season against South Carolina, dropping the next game by 12 points. In their next game the Wildcats looked impressive, beating a good Mississippi St. team by 16. But the team followed up that win looking pretty average in a win over Auburn.
While Alabama has won 10 of their last 12 games, they too, have played spotty at times. On February 5, Florida beat them by 31 points, a game that Alabama was outrebounded by the margin of 39-22. Coach Gottfried thinks that rebounding in this game may be the key to victory, "I think that right now, rebounding is certainly going to be an issue with our team," Gottfried said. "We've lost four of the six games where we have been outrebounded."
Saturday's game marks the 127th meeting between the two schools. Kentucky holds a 93-33 advantage. The Wildcats have won three of their last five meetings including the last two.
Two key players in this game may be Alabama's Kennedy Winston and Kentucky's Kalenna Azibuike. Azibuike has averaged over 20 points per game and nearly eight rebounds in his past three games. He has failed to break double digits in scoring only once in his last 10 games. Winston, likewise has been on a tear, scoring 18 points or more in his last five games.
The game will pit the Wildcats' SEC-leading scoring defense against Bama's number two ranked scoring offense. Alabama averages over 76 points per game while Kentucky defense gives up just over 60 points per contest.