- Saturday, January 24 2009 -
Kentucky - 61 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||0||0|
Alabama - 51 (Head Coach: Mark Gottfried) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Alabama 25, Kentucky 19
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Auburn 73 - 64|||||Mississippi 80 - 85|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK rallies to beat Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Score one for perseverance.
On a day when Kentucky shot a miserable percentage, turned the ball over 23 times, played much of the second half without its star post presence and lost a member of the team after he fainted outside the locker room the Cats still somehow managed a 61-51 victory over Alabama before 15,316 fans at Coleman Coliseum.
As earning victories go this one about topped the charts in Billy Gillispie's two seasons as the Cats' head coach.
"I thought our guys were about as tough as you could be at this point of the season," Gillispie said.
Nothing came easy for UK, yet it still emerged from the sleepy college town Bear Bryant and Wimp Sanderson once - and in some ways still do - owned. Patrick Patterson logged just 27 minutes and was rendered mostly ineffective by a collapsing Alabama defense designed to take him out the game. When he picked up three fouls in the span of 1:55 and went to the bench with four fouls and 16:24 remaining things looked somewhat bleak for a team that had generated next to nothing offensively.
Enter Perry Stevenson and a trio of unheralded rookies (Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson) to the rescue.
"We don't want Patrick to ever be on the sideline but there are going to be some times it happens and it happened (against Alabama)," Gillispie said. "He's an All-American and even in the games where he doesn't score he demands respect and demands that one and a half guys guard him because of how hard he works. He brings it every day and his numbers don't always indicate how good he is."
Stevenson, who has re-emerged as a consistent performer over the past few weeks, posted 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in support of Patterson. It was the spindly junior forward's second consecutive double double and highest scoring outing since he hit for 20 in the season opener. Stevenson capped his day by connecting on 7-of-8 free throws as UK held onto its lead over the final 4:25 of the game.
With UK's band of brothers not named Patterson or Jodie Meeks often overlooked Stevenson said he felt an obligation to prove a point once Patterson went to the bench.
"I can speak for the rest of the team and none of us like to be underestimated," Stevenson said. "We don't like that feeling. Just showing what you can do is what we're all about, not talking about, just going out and doing it."
There was ample reason for the Cats to crawl into a shell and shrink from a challenge. Besides Patterson's foul trouble, they scored just 19 points in the first half and trailed 42-40 with 8:03 remaining before ending the game on a 21-9 run. Those numbers don't even take into account the emotional strain of watching teammate Ramon Harris collapse outside the locker room as the team prepared to return to the court for the second half.
In as much as UK won a single basketball game it also may have further emboldened the 'us against the world' attitude that has created a toughness unmatched by most of the Cats' opponents.
"It shows how much we're maturing as a team," Meeks said. "Stuff is not always going to go our way, peaches and cream and stuff like that, so when we're faced with adversity and come out with a win like this it was big for us."
Gillispie took notice of the intangibles on both ends of the floor. Besides winning while making fewer field goals than times turning the ball over the Cats held Alabama to a season-worst 29.3 percent from the field, 17 percentage points lower than the Crimson Tide's average in four previous Southeastern Conference games. It was the 11th time in 20 games UK held an opponent under 34 percent from the field and 15th time under 40 percent.
"I thought we played great," Gillispie said. "We wanted to try and keep them out of the paint as much as possible, off the offensive boards and off the foul line. I thought we really defended the ball well and that gives you a chance to be successful defensively.
"I don't like to shoot 38 percent but when you go on the road, shoot 38 percent and still win it says a lot about the toughness level of your team."
Even in the face of multiple roadblocks.
Alabama's Senario Hillman (#21) makes like Rajon Rondo with a stylish one-handed dunk
Alabama's Alonzo Gee fouls Perry Stevenson (#21) as he is en route to a layup
DeAndre Liggins blocks the shot of Anthony Brock