- Saturday, January 14 2006 -
Alabama - 68 (Head Coach: Mark Gottfried) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 64 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 32, Alabama 29
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt 52 - 57|||||Georgia 69 - 55|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
No relief: Bama extends UK's slide
Alabama came into Rupp Arena missing its best player and without a quality victory this season. It left with a 68-64 victory that might not qualify as an impressive resume builder, but the Crimson Tide certainly dealt Kentucky another major jolt to the system.
The loss dropped Kentucky to 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, the first time that has happened since the infamous Team Turmoil year in 2002. It's also the first time the Cats have lost three consecutive games in more than five years. The two home defeats marked the first time since 1974 that UK had lost back-to-back home games.
"I don't know that I can put (how I feel) into words," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "This is a real disappointment. All year long we've struggled with a lot of things."
The latest defeat highlighted some of the same issues the Cats have been facing for most of the season. The Cats continued to moonlight as masons, missing shots from all over the floor, but it was the second half defensive collapse and myriad of critical turnovers that drilled the final nails in the Cats' coffin.
Three times in the final minutes UK threw to ball away, and nearly did a fourth time when Ramel Bradley attempted a horrible entry pass to Randolph Morris. Meanwhile on the other end of the floor, Alabama's Jermareo Davidson was having him way in the post, scoring 10 points in the final seven minutes on with slick post up moves.
"It's another game where we didn't execute, didn't play smart," Smith said. "Alabama executed and did what they had to do. When you let a team shoot 72 percent (in the second half), you are not doing much defensively.
"We turned the ball over in situations where we had to make a play. We want to put the ball in certain guys' hands and we just didn't at all. We were throwing the ball all over the place in the second half for no reason."
UK led for much of the game, but watched a 53-48 lead with nine minutes left slip away. Alabama went on a 12-0 run that turned the deficit into a 60-53 lead with 4:31 remaining. The Cats rallied with eight straight points to reclaim the lead at 64-63 on a Rajon Rondo drive, but Alabama's Jermareo Davidson capped his career day with a three-point play at 1:01 to give the Tide the lead for good.
Davidson was nearly unstoppable in the post, connecting on 10-of-14 shots from the field and 8-of-12 from the line. He also added eight rebounds and had UK shaking its head throughout the afternoon.
"He is an outstanding player," sophomore center Randolph Morris said of Davidson. "I have to give him his props. We got away from trapping in the post. I wasn't as focused as I should have been. It was a lack of mental toughness."
Having lost Wooden Award candidate Chuck Davis to a season-ending knee injury earlier in the week, Alabama ran most of its simplified offense through Davidson and the Cats weren't able to slow him down. Alabama's offense was so dominant Ð or UK's defense so lacking Ð the Tide did not miss a single field goal attempt in the game's final 11 minutes.
"Jermareo, for a stretch, played as well as he has for us," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We just wanted to go to him. We just tried to keep it simple."
UK didn't go quietly though. Trailing 63-56 at the final media timeout, the Cats came out and got a three from Bradley, a turnover by Davidson and then another triple by Ravi Moss as the shot clock ticked down to pull within 63-62. After Rondo drew a charge on Alabama's Ronald Steele, he drove the lane and flicked in a bank shot while being fouled to give UK the lead, but he missed the free throw attempt.
Those were the final points UK would score, although it did end a three-game streak where 60 were an unreachable goal. Davidson followed up Rondo's drive by spinning on Sheray Thomas and completing an old-fashioned three-point play to put Bama up 66-64.
The Cats called two timeouts in its next possession trying to set up a play to tie the score, but were unable to get the ball inside and settled for a long, errant three-point attempt by Rondo that resulted in a shot clock violation. Steele made one free throw on the other end to push the lead to three, but Bradley barely nicked the front iron with a long three-point effort that sealed the Cats' loss.
"I'm at a loss for words," Thomas said. "It's disappointing. I don't know what it is. We've been playing close games and things aren't going our way because we haven't made them go our way.
"This is the worst feeling."
Joe Crawford and Rajon Rondo both grab for the rebound
Randolph Morris blocks