Alabama Basketball Misses Opportunity For Signature Win, Falls at Kentucky, 76-67
LEXINGTON, Ky. - 3-point shooting turned out to be the difference in Alabama basketball’s 76-67 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The hot-shooting Crimson Tide, which was ranked third nationally in 3-pointers made and had scored 90 points or more in five straight contests, shot 4-of-21 from distance, which was a season-low in makes and percentage at 19.4.
On the other hand, Kentucky, who, coming into today, was ranked 351st out of 353 schools in shots coming from 3-point range, shot 9-of-15 from beyond the arc, which was good for 60 percent, a season-high for the Wildcats.
“Tough game,” Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats said. “They are hard to score on and did a good job on us, defensively, as anybody has done on us this season. We go 4-of-21 from three, some of that is, a lot of that is, [Kentucky] plays hard and has length. They contest your shots and make you miss. We needed to shoot it a lot better than 4-of-21 to have a chance in this game.”
With 14:12 in the first half, Alabama got its only lead of the game, 10-8, thanks to a fast-break dunk by forward Herbert Jones. But after that, the Wildcats went on a 13-2 run to seize control and, ultimately, never let go of its advantage.
Kentucky kept Alabama at arms reach, as the Crimson Tide never seemed to establish enough momentum in the opening period to regain the lead. A 17-9 run across the final 6:21 of the first half put the Crimson Tide down 10 at intermission.
Trailing at the half, Oats’ squad never showed quit but kept fighting throughout the final 20 minutes. Kentucky saw its lead extend to 15 with 17:12 remaining after guard Immanuel Quickley drained his third trey of the game.
Alabama would proceed to cut the Wildcats lead down to three with 5:04 to go, but anytime it felt the heat, Kentucky would respond with a timely bucket from Quickley, forward Nick Richards, or guards Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey.
In the second half, Alabama shot better from the field, hitting 14-of-32 attempts at a clip of 43 percent. Unfortunately, it did not make a field goal over the last 2:14, sealing the victory for the home team.
The Crimson Tide’s resilient effort turned the head of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“I asked Nate [Oats] after the game, 'Do we play y'all again?,’” Calipari said. “He said no and I told him, 'Thank goodness.' There is no one who wants to play Alabama right now. They are making shots from different positions and they are driving the ball.
And when you have Herbert Jones doing what he does, I told him after the game, “The way you play and your energy and your effort, that is a skill.’ That’s a skill. And the way he did it, look, we’re done. If we have to play them again, it will be in the tournament, and I will dread that if we have to.”
Jones had to be the go-to guy on offense, as guards John Petty, Jr., and Kira Lewis, Jr. received the majority of the Wildcats attention on defense. Jones made 8-of-20 from the field and finished with a team-high 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. His 20 shot attempts were a career-high for the junior.
“They [Kentucky] are, maybe, as good as any team in the country at taking your best scorer or top two scorers out of the game,” Oats said. “Kira and John, you look at those two, not terrible games, but usually a lot better. We needed someone else to step up.”
Petty finished with 16 points, making six of his 15 field goal attempts. He also made his presence known on the defensive end with seven boards and four blocks. Lewis flirted with a double-double, notching 10 points and eight rebounds.
Kentucky (12-3, 3-0 SEC) used a balance effort on offense to propel it to its fourth straight win and third in conference play. Four Wildcat players were in double figures including Quickley, who had a game-high 19 points and made five of his six attempts from 3-point range. Richards added 13 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks.
Alabama now falls to 8-7, (1-2 SEC) on the season with a showdown looming with the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday night at Coleman Coliseum.