- Saturday, February 17 2007 -
Kentucky - 61 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 18th by ESPN/USA Today]
Alabama - 72 (Head Coach: Mark Gottfried) - [Ranked 25th by AP]
Halftime Score: Alabama 30, Kentucky 22
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|Tennessee 85 - 89|||||Louisiana State 70 - 63|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Groundhog Day: Loss follows familiar script
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Bill Murray isn't likely to visit the Kentucky locker room any time soon but the comedian would certainly approve of the Cats copying the premise of his movie 'Groundhog Day'.
UK lost its third consecutive game in much the same fashion it dropped the first two, falling to third place in the SEC East after being handed a 72-61 loss by struggling Alabama in front of 15,316 fans at Coleman Coliseum. For the Cats (18-8, 7-5) it was the same script as in losses to Florida and Tennessee Ð fall behind by double digits in the first half, stage a spirited rally and then crumble down the stretch under the weight of poor decisions and silly mistakes.
"I don't know...we're a better team than this," junior guard Ramel Bradley said. "It's devastating to lose three in a row. We are way better than this. We should never lose three in a row.
"We are beating ourselves. I don't think it's a confidence thing because we can beat these teams. We are better than this and we are beating ourselves. That's what hurts the most. When you can blame it on yourself it burns more."
Despite his disbelief Bradley was one of the main culprits of another inexplicable performance. The self-proclaimed team leader scored 12 points but was 4-of-15 from the field and 1-of-10 from three-point range and missed three crucial free throws down the stretch, much like he did in the Cats' loss to Florida seven days prior. In that game, Bradley did not give up the ball on the Cats' last seven possessions and he followed that up by failing to do so on the last four trips against Alabama despite Joe Crawford having just nailed two three-pointers to cut Alabama's lead to 65-61 with 1:12 remaining.
"It was the same M.O. with the same issues," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "We have a tendency to battle back and then not play with the intelligence we need to play with in clutch situations. We need to think a little more.
"We keep repeating the same mistakes and that's disturbing. It's a matter of trying to do too much and make it happen too quick. It can be contagious good but this is contagious bad. It's a team game and we are not making smart decisions."
Smith did not single anyone out but it's not hard to figure out where the deficiencies are coming from. Bradley has fallen flat in late game situations, while junior center Randolph Morris flat admitted his head wasn't in the game at tip-off despite the importance of the contest and Alabama's interior duo of Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix. Morris' lack of focus played out in two turnovers and two missed shots in the lane before the first media timeout. It also left Smith nearly at a loss for words.
"What can you say?" Smith said. "I don't know how your head can't be in the game."
Morris wasn't alone in his dullness at the outset of the game. UK failed to score on 12 of its first 13 possessions, the only bucket coming from Ramon Harris on a fast break dunk. While the Cats were scuffling the Crimson Tide was rolling (no pun intended), jumping out to a 20-6 lead. It was a far cry from the beginning of SEC play when Alabama seemed to find itself in the same rut UK is in now at the start of contests.
"In January that was us," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said of UK's recent deficits. "We went down 15-0 seemingly every time we played."
The Cats are making an art of digging themselves a substantial hole and then trying to fight their way back. Florida had UK down by 16, Tennessee by 15 and Alabama by 14 before the Cats fought back to within striking distance each time, only to fail to capitalize on the momentum and claim a lead.
The same sequence played out in Tuscaloosa as UK pulled with 48-46 with 7:28 remaining and then immediately surrendered a 9-0 spurt by Alabama that was keyed by little used reserve Justin Tubbs' second three of the game. Tubbs, who had scored a total of 13 points in the Tide's last 12 games, had nine when the final horn sounded.
UK did have one final chance, closing within 65-61 on a Crawford three but Ronald Steele hit two free throws to push the lead back to six and Bradley had his running bank go halfway through the net with 53.2 seconds left before Morris inexplicably swatted it back through the rim for an offensive goaltending. The Cats never scored again.
"I hit it inadvertently," Morris said.
It was just the latest example of a season that is quickly spiraling out of control.
"We know we are better but talk is cheap," Morris said. "We say we're better and then make boneheaded plays. It's a matter of showing it."
Right now the Cats are just replaying a movie that would make Murray proud.
Joe Crawford (#32) shoots over Jermareo Davidson of Alabama
Ramel Bradley tries to get around Justin Tubbs
Overview of the game.