The Alabama Crimson Tide came into Rupp Arena with a chip on their shoulder, but they leave with a tough loss courtesy of the Kentucky Wildcats' second half free throw shooting.
Congratulations to the Tide on an outstanding game. Hanging 71 points on Kentucky in Rupp Arena is no mean feat, and even though Alabama has shot the ball poorly from three all year long, they did not today, shooting 71% on 5-7 shots from distance. Alabama's defense held Kentucky to only 43% on their home floor, while shooting 48% from the field themselves. The Tide had a chance to win this game on the strength of pure perseverance and good shooting, but saw that opportunity slip away in the waning minutes thanks to outstanding free throw shooting from Kentucky.
For the 'Cats, I am very happy with the outcome, but very unhappy with the way UK played the game. Kentucky missed many open looks yet again, got handled on the offensive glass, and made some really brain-dead plays that you simply can't make in hard-fought games. I thought UK was lazy on defense at times, and although it's really difficult to maintain intensity for 40 minutes, there were too many times where the only player in the game with more want-to than Alabama was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who wound up fouling out. Talented timidity is losing proposition, and Alabama definitely pushed the Wildcats around in their own house.
In the end, though, Kentucky won the game and in a good way -- making free throws at crunch time when they struggled earlier in the game to make free 15 footers, of which they were granted an incredible 40. UK scored 35% of their points from the free throw line, and legitimately left six or seven points on the floor.
- Darius Miller played like a senior today. Despite only making 2 of five, he made 2 of three from the arc and really defended well. Despite getting only 2 rebounds, he was 5 of 6 from the line with 4 assists, 2 turnovers 2 steals and a block. At the end of the game, Miller really asserted himself and was a huge part of the late offense, when he was needed most. Game ball.
- Doron Lamb was back to his old self today. He wasn't perfect, but he was very good, scoring 14 points on 5-8 from the field and grabbing 4 rebounds. He also committed only one turnover, and I liked his defensive intensity, it was much better.
- Anthony Davis struggled in many ways, but he made his free throws and came within a rebound of yet another double-double. He also had a huge block down the stretch, then put the game out of reach with two free throws.
- Terrence Jones played well also. I think six rebounds is too few, but 15 points is good, to go along with a couple of blocks and a steal. His free throw shooting was off, but he made late ones, when they really needed them.
- Marquis Teague, did some good things running the team, which is nice to see.
- Kentucky as a team blocked nine shots and had only 8 turnovers. Very good.
- I thought Kyle Wiltjer played really well. He had a rebound, a block, and a three.
Not so superlative
- Kentucky as a team looked lazy on defense to me, and I didn't like it. Too many breakdowns.
- Marquis Teague shot the ball too many times, missed too many easy shots, and took too many challenged shots.
- Anthony Davis was manhandled, and he didn't respond.
- Terrence Jones is still not producing at the level we need.
- There is no excuse, whatever, for shooting only 67% on 40 free throws. This team should be shooting closer to 75% from the line than 65% on that many attempts.
- Some dumb fouls today, and the one at the end of the game particularly galls me. Lamb made a dumb, obvious foul at crunch time 75 feet from the basket and acted like he couldn't understand the call. Play like a man, for heaven's sake.
- UK's zone defense needs a lot of work before they trot that out again.
- Kentucky allowed the post to be fed too easily. They should have double-teamed the post more from the top.
A win is a win, and I'm happy about this one as ugly as it was, but this team is capable of so much more. When are we going to see it? I guess I'd be happy to wait until March, so maybe I should wait until then to ask that question. Nevertheless, I'd like to see a sign that they are beginning to get it. Maybe next game, when the Georgia Bulldogs come calling on Tuesday.