For the Wildcats, it was their 11th win in 13 tries against Alabama in the SEC Tournament. "I thought both teams really played hard and competed," said coach Tubby Smith, "You could tell there was a lot at stake. I know Alabama's kind of under the weather right now and not having people healthy, and everybody else. But it was a good win for us. I thought our guys really played well today and competed well.
In the first meeting between the two clubs Alabama jumped out to an early lead and the Wildcats could never quite recover. Early on Thursday, it appeared that the Tide would pick up where it left off.
Alabama jumped out to a 21-11 lead in the first 10 minutes of the opening half, before the Wildcats found their shooting touch. Senior Bobby Perry made a two point jumper, followed by baskets by Morris and Bradley. Crawford connected on a three pointer, then Perry hit a two, completing an 11-0 UK run, putting the Wildcats back on top.
The game would stay tight for the following few minutes until Ramel Bradley hit a three point shot to knot the game at 27, igniting another 11-0 Wildcat run to close out the half. At intermission, Kentucky led 35-27, heading into the locker room with a 16-3 won-loss record when leading at the half.
Bama tried to keep the game close, and did indeed pull to within three at 39-36 after an old fashioned three point play by Richard Hendrix. But Morris and Perry combined for 10 points to put UK back on a mini 10-4 run and the Cats were up by nine at 49-40.
The Tide would get no close than five the rest of the way as the Wildcats went on runs to hold as large as a 16 pint advantage twice down the stretch.
The Wildcats shot 50% from the field and 40% from three point range, while outrebounding the Tide 34-26. The Cats turned the ball over just 12 times. Five Wildcats reached double figures.
``We're a much more dangerous team when everybody's scoring,'' Bradley said. Jodie Meeks, a freshman guard from the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, energized the Wildcats during his 24 minutes on the court. For Meeks it was the freshman's fifth consecutive game raching double digits in scoring.
``He's instant offense when he comes in there,'' Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. ``He plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart.''
Morris took care of things on the inside, with his 10th double-double of the season. The loss probably cost any chance of making the NCAA tournament.
``You hold out that last glimmer of hope,'' coach Mark Gottfried said. ``But if we get invited to the NIT, we'll give it our best shot.''