In game of big runs by both teams Perry and Morris made the difference down the stretch.
Alabama opened a 10-point lead in the first half in what only be described as a situation where the Crimson Tide were "less cold" than Kentucky. Jean Felix hit a three pointer to give the Tide a 20-10 margin at the 6:31 mark of the first half. But the Cats would be led back by little used reserves Rekalin Sims and Shagari Alleyne.
First, Sims floated a three pointer to pull the Cats to within seven at 20-13. Then Sims would score on a layup to cut the margin to five. Alleyne then blocked two consecutive shots and made a nice dunk. Later the 7-foot-3 New Yorker would add a free throw and then add a dramatic dunk as time ran off the clock to give the Cats a slim one point lead at the break.
Kentucky opened the second half with a 5-1 run to build a modest five point lead before it appeared as though the wheels were about to come off. The Tide went on a 19-4 run over the next seven minutes behind the hot shooting of freshman Alonzo Gee who scored 18 points for the game, all of which came in the second half.
Down 43-33 Rekalin Sims started a run that would get the Cats to within striking distance. The 6-foot-8 junior canned a three to pull the Cats to within seven. After an Alabama score, senior Partick Sparks canned a three and the Cats were down just six. Crawford and Gee would trade three pointers before Sparks would pull the Cats to within three at 48-45, at the 8:49 mark.
But Alonzo Gee and Jermareo Davidson would spark yet another Tide run, and at the 6:19 mark, Alabama led by eleven, setting up the final act of the drama. First, Rajon Rondo would tip in a missed three point attempt by Patrick Sparks. The lead was now nine.
Morris stole stepped in front of an entry pass and stole the ball. Sparks would feed Perry for a layup and the lead was reduced to seven. Morris blocked a shot, then grabbed the rebound. Seconds later Rondo fed Sparks for a three and the lead was just four points with 4:45 remaining.
All-SEC point guard Ronald Steele stopped the bleeding momentarily for the Tide with a three pointer but Bobby Perry answered with a three of his own. The lead was still four but no one knew that Steele's basket at the 4:17 mark would be the last points Alabama would score. Rondo then created an Alabama turnover with a steal and Crawford fed Perry for the dunk and lead was now down to two at the 3-minute mark.
Perry then made a nice block and Morris nabbed another rebound on the next shot. Morris was fouled in the act of shooting on the other end and made both free throws, deadlocking the game at 61 with 2:06 remaining.
Rondo rebounded a missed shot and the Cats called timeout setting up a play for Morris. Perry had the ball but Morris was well defended. So Perry dribbled left into the paint and headed to the basket for what would be the biggest shot of his career. The Cats now led 63-61 with 1:15 remaining. The Cats added five free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Kentucky plays South Carolina at 12:00 noon CT on Saturday. The Wildcats own two double-digit wins over the Gamecocks this season, but South Carolina has now won three in a row, including an 8-point win over Tennessee earlier today.
Kentucky shot under 40% today. It was the first time the Cats shot under 40% for a game and won since the opening game of the season against South Dakota State.
In the first game, the Cats outrebounded the Tide by 10 and lost. Today, the Cats were outrebounded by ten and won.
The Cats shot 8-11 from the free throw line today. It was the fifth time in the last seven games that the Cats shot over 70% from the line.
The Cats held all-SEC PG Ronald Steele to just 3-15 shooting.
Rondo and Sparks combined for 10 assists and only three turnovers today.