- Tuesday, February 9 2010 -
Alabama - 55 (Head Coach: Anthony Grant) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 66 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 3rd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 31, Alabama 24
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|Louisiana State 81 - 55|||||Tennessee 73 - 62|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats slog through 11-point win over 'Bama
John Wall has seen it all this season, the accolades and hero worship for his late-game heroics, magazine cover shoots, opponents who suddenly morph into Jason Kidd when he's on the floor, but even the gifted one had a new experience this time around.
The great Wall of Kentucky stepped on his own dribble. True enough, college basketball's premier point guard left a Nike sole print on his own leather. It was that kind of first half for Wall and the rest of the Cats, but they like most championship-caliber teams it wasn't enough to derail the victory train.
The Cats overcame a sloppy, somewhat listless performance to dispatch of pesky Alabama 66-55 in front of 23,318 fans Rupp Arena on a snowy night. UK (23-1, 8-1 SEC) rebounded from a 9-2 deficit at the start, took the lead for good at 19-17 with 5:46 remaining in the first half and did just enough the rest of the way to stave off the Crimson Tide's challenge.
"That's how Alabama has played all year," UK coach John Calipari said. "They create turnovers, they play aggressive, they're physical, they play great defense. I thought we were pretty good. We were grinding it out at times, which we have to be able to do. There was effort but there wasn't great play from top to bottom."
For the first 20 minutes some of the Cats' play suggested the powder at the scorer's table used for neutralizing sweat had been replaced with Crisco. UK bumbled the basketball all over the court, turning it over 11 times, many of ridiculous nature.
"John Wall in the first half, I don't know, something happened like there were slipperies on the ball or something because he just lost three balls that weren't even forced," Calipari said.
Wall didn't argue the point.
"I'm glad he (took me out) because I wasn't being strong with the ball like I was supposed to," Wall said. "I stepped on my own dribble. When you're doing stuff like that it's pitiful and Coach has got to take you out so you can re-gather yourself."
Alabama entered the game yielding the least amount of points per game in Southeastern Conference, a testament to the new tenacious style coach Anthony Grant has installed in Tuscaloosa. Conversely, UK was leading the league in scoring offense, creating the age-old dynamic of something having to give.
The result was a salty defensive effort from the Crimson Tide in holding UK to 45.8 percent shooting and 15 points under their scoring average in conference games. Still, the Cats felt like they left a lot of points on the floor with missed shots - they were just 3-of-16 from three-point range - and the 16 turnovers.
"They kept the game in the 60's and we wanted it in the 80's," Calipari said. "We missed some point blank shots in the first half, how do you miss that? We had eight wide-open threes and missed all eight. That's how everybody has played us, if you make shots you win by 20. We had eight wide-open threes and some weren't close to making it. When you start adding, make the one-footers and two threes out of eight all the sudden you have a different score."
It was all part of Alabama's plan of attack.
"The game plan was to keep Kentucky out of transition as much as we could," Grant said. "I thought we were clearly effective early but being as good a team as Kentucky is they were able to find some gaps in our zone in the second half and get a comfortable lead."
The Cats expect everyone will show a variation of the same defense the rest of the season.
"It's tough because teams are running a lot of zones against us and not everyone runs the same zone," Wall said. "We just have to make shots and finish plays. I don't think we're going to see man much. They went man for a split-second and I don't think they meant to because they got right back to zone.
"People don't want us to get up and down so they're going to try to go halfcourt and hold it that long. Teams like South Carolina, the way they beat us was they held the ball then made tough shots at the shot clock or got an offensive rebound so teams looked at it and said that was the way to beat (Kentucky)."
John Wall (#11) works against Alabama's Anthony Brock
DeMarcus Cousins (#15) drives inside
Ramon Harris looks to pass