Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Alabama 48 - 70 Kentucky (No. 2,157)

Since 1969, Alabama has played in Coleman Coliseum, which is (I think) the second-oldest gym in the SEC.  It has been a House of Horrors for the Big Blue.  Going into Saturday's game, the Cats were 17-17 against Alabama in Coleman.  Kentucky teams that went to the Final Four were only 3-3 in Coleman:

02/22/75:  Alabama 79 - 84 Kentucky
01/23/78:  Alabama 78 - 62 Kentucky
02/04/84:  Alabama 69 - 62 Kentucky
01/19/93:  Alabama 59 - 73 Kentucky
02/19/97:  Alabama 61 - 75 Kentucky
01/18/11:  Alabama 68 - 66 Kentucky

Coach Calipari was 0-2 there since taking over the Cats, and the Cats had not scored 70 points in Coleman since 2005.  Their all-time biggest win over Alabama in Coleman was a 72-52 victory back in 1995.

So I was expecting a very difficult game when the Cats and the Tide tipped off at 3:15 P.M. on Saturday.  Ken Pomeroy had picked a 64-56 UK win, and at tip-off I would have taken that.  I was particularly concerned that Dominique Hawkins was out, meaning that UK wouldn't have 10 players for its two platoons.  I was annoyed that Alabama was playing in front of a sell-out home crowd for the first time since the last time UK came to town.  And I was even more annoyed when UK's first possession ended in a steal and an easy layup for the Tide.

But after that, UK played one of the best halves of basketball I have ever seen.  Alabama, like almost everyone we've seen over the last month, came out in a sagging 2-3 zone on defense.  On offense, Alabama walked up the ball and tried running out the clock.  Under these circumstances, UK had to play with great patience and intensity on both sides of the ball in order to avoid getting sucked into another Texas A & M-type slugfest.  And that's exactly what the Cats did.  In the first half:

UK held Alabama to 31.8 percent shooting from the field.
UK out-rebounded Alabama 19-9.
UK shot 61.5 percent from 2-point range, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 87.5 percent from the free throw line.

The Cats never forced their offense, but let shots come in the flow of attack.  As a result, UK's 35 first-half points were scattered among nine different players:

W. Cauley-Stein:  5 points
Aa. Harrison:  5
An. Harrison:  5
K-A Towns:  4
T. Lyles:  4
D. Johnson:  4
D. Booker:  3
T. Ulis:  3
M. Lee:  2

It was beautiful, almost flawless basketball -- one of the best halves of basketball I've ever seen from the Cats.  At the half, UK was up 35-17.

In the second half, Alabama junked its 2-3 zone and started pushing the pace.  After 7 minutes, Alabama had cut UK's lead to 39-30 and Coleman was going nuts.  The Tide was now playing an aggressive man-to-man defense and looking for steals.  But there's a reason why most teams don't play man-to-man against Kentucky.  Over the next two minutes, UK broke the game open with a devastating 10-0 run -- and then just kept pulling away.  The Cats outscored Alabama 31-13, posting a 70-43 lead before the Tide got a few more points in garbage time.  It was an awesome performance led by Devin Booker (10 points), Tyler Ulis (8 points), and Dakari Johnson (7 points) -- all guys on the second platoon.

When it was all said and done, therefore, the Cats had hammered Alabama in two different ways.  In the first half, they used suffocating defense and great interior play to post a 35-17 lead.  In the second half, they carved up Alabama's man-to-man defense, hitting shots from both inside and outside to put together a 31-13 run.

17-0.  4-0 in the SEC.  14 games to go.

I don't know that UK can play much better than they did on Saturday -- that was one of the best games I've ever seen from the Cats.  But I look forward to seeing what happens next.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, I thought the officiating in this game was excellent.