- Saturday, January 25 2003 -
Kentucky - 63 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP]
Alabama - 46 (Head Coach: Mark Gottfried) - [Ranked 15th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 26, Alabama 21
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Auburn 67 - 51|||||South Carolina 87 - 69|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
The defensive beat goes on, UK throttles Bama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Ð If defense wins championships, Kentucky may be on its way to an eighth national championship this season, and at the very least a 42nd Southeastern Conference title.
UK held Alabama to its lowest shooting percentage since C.M. Newton coached the Crimson Tide in 1969, as Bama made just 23.8 percent of its field goals in the Cats' 63-46 victory before 15,316 fans at Coleman Coliseum. The win ended Alabama's 28-game home winning streak and a two-game skid for UK against the Tide.
Although UK (15-3, 5-0 SEC) didn't shoot particularly well itself, the Cats posted another suffocating defensive effort, holding Bama's big three Ð Erwin Dudley, Kenny Walker and Maurice Williams Ð to a combined 2-of-22 from the field. Dudley and Williams did not make a single field goal between them in scoring just nine total points.
"We wanted to double team them every time they touched the ball and make them pass it back out," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "I didn't know (they didn't make a field goal). I didn't think we could do that."
After falling behind 8-4 to start the game, UK held Bama (12-5, 2-4) without a point for the next eight minutes, and without a field goal for 11:49. Despite that, UK lead just 26-21 at intermission after shooting only 36 percent itself. Still, UK kept Alabama under wraps after two early three-pointers.
The Crimson Tide pulled to within 28-26 at the 18:14 mark of the second half, but again suffered a long field goal drought, this time drying up for just over minutes. That spell turned out to be the end for Bama, as UK stretched its lead to 47-32 during the span.
"We played excellent team defense," Smith said. "We wanted to take certain things away and the kids did a good job adhering to the game plan."
While the defense ruled the day, UK got 16 points from Gerald Fitch and Keith Bogans put up 12 in the final half after going scoreless in seven foul-plagued minutes in the first half. Even so, in the end, it was the increasingly sticky defense that lifted UK to its first win in Tuscaloosa since 1997.
"We held them to 23 percent?" sophomore Chuck Hayes said. "If anyone can play a better game defensively, all praise to them. Twenty-three percent is pretty magnificent."
Several of the players credited a perfectly designed game plan from the coaching staff for stifling a struggling Alabama team.
"Our coaches did a great job with the scouting report," Bogans said. "Nine times out of 10, (the opponent) is exactly the way they posted it. That's what happened tonight."
Fitch, who kept UK in the game early with 11 first half points, and finished with a team-high eight rebounds, also praised the plan.
"It was excellent," Fitch said. "The coaches did a great job. We took them out of everything. It was the game plan to take Dudley and Williams out of the game."
Lost in all the hoopla was UK's doing what the 28 previous teams couldn't in Coleman Ð come out victorious. For its part, UK said that didn't matter much to them.
"It didn't really (matter)," senior Marquis Estill said. "Me and Keith were talking earlier, saying we hadn't won here. We have now."
And if they keep playing brutal defense, they may just win some much more important games.
Marquis Estill (#50) rolls the ball in over Alabama's Kenny Walker
Kelenna Azubuike (#24) guards against Alabama's Emmett Thomas