I'm really glad this game is over, because it was a very tough game that the Kentucky Wildcats were fortunate to win.
I can't say enough about the Alabama Crimson Tide. They were tough, they pretty much dominated UK on the glass, but what wound up getting them beat today, as so many times this year, was just the inability to shoot a high enough percentage from the field. It's a good thing they didn't, too, because Kentucky was ripe for the picking today. Great effort by the Tide, who keeps getting better and better game by game. I hope they get to play in the post season, because their players have earned it.
Kentucky came out flat in the first half, and just played really bad basketball for 20 minutes. If UK had been playing a team with more guys who could put the ball in the basket, Kentucky would have gone in at the half down 15 instead of 5. I think the first half was one of the worst halves of basketball this Kentucky team has managed all year, and Alabama deserves a lot of credit as well for their quick hands and determined rebounding. Combine all that, and I feared we might go in down double-digits. But a mini-run right at the end and a big shot by Darnell Dodson sent the 'Cats into the locker room with a manageable 5-point deficit.
More after the jump.
The second half saw a much more focused Kentucky team, but they were unable to put the gritty Crimson Tide away -- they just kept coming and coming, and were in the game up until the bitter end.
- Thank Heaven for Patrick Patterson. Besides Wall, he was the only Wildcat that could put the ball in the basket, even if his outside touch did desert him.
- John Wall was nothing short of spectacular. When he gets it going, there's just nothing you can do as the opposition except admire his game.
- Eric Bledsoe really did play pretty well in the second half, but he was invisible in the first half for some reason.
- DeMarcus Cousins worked hard, but he just wasn't able to get as many rebounds as he usually does. A lot of time on the pine made it hard for him to get into a rhythm.
- It's so frustrating to see Kentucky shoot so poorly from three again. That could be this team's Achilles heel, just as many had suspected. But these rims are very tight, and we have not seen much good perimeter shooting so far in the tournament.
- Perry Stevenson really gave us a great lift today. Perry is capable of giving some really good minutes in short spurts.
- Darnell Dodson made three turnovers in a row in the first half, and I was pulling out great gobs of my remaining hair. But that one three he made was huge.
- Daniel Orton gave some good minutes, but he still didn't get as many rebounds as he should have.
- DeAndre Liggins was just a mess today. Go figure. Darius Miller and he must have gotten into some bad pizza or something.
- UK made free throws. That was a big deal in this game.
- Alabama is extremely athletic. There is not a more athletic team in the league.
- Calipari came up with a great antidote for the zone by running Bledsoe into the center gap and hitting the big guys in the post.
If "survive and advance" is the watchword for tournament play, we can say that Kentucky did just that today -- survived a determined Alabama team who had designs on sending the 'Cats home to Lexington for a couple of extra days of rest. Fortunately, the Wildcats did just enough to win, and that's what counts.