Now that the non-conference is over, it is time for the gauntlet that is the SEC. The Cats kicked off conference play with a road trip to Alabama and they got a taste of what conference play is going to be like as they came up just short.
Right from the tip, both teams came out locked in and knocking down shots and at the under 16 media timeout the Cats found themselves trailing 16-15.
However, each team would continue to battle and at the second timeout of the half it was Kentucky with a 1-point lead, 23-22.
With just under 4 minutes to play, Kentucky found themselves down 32-29, but they would end the half strong and take a 40-38 lead into halftime.
What stood out in the first half is that Kentucky actually played extremely well and should’ve had a big lead. However, a 29% three-point shooter on the year went 5-5 from deep and had 20 points while the rest of the Tide had just 18 combined.
Out of the break, Kentucky was ice cold from the floor and couldn’t buy a basket.
At the first timeout, Bama had a 48-47 lead, but Kentucky never seemed to be able to get over the hump as with 10 minutes to play they still trailed by one, 58-57.
Bama was playing at a very high level and with just under five minutes left the Tide extended their lead to ten, 68-58.
From that point, the Cats really picked up the intensity and started chipping away at the lead and with 5 seconds remaining a steal by Ashton Hagans led to a PJ Washington dunk to cut it to one, 76-75.
After a miss and a make from the foul line, Kentucky had a legit shot at winning the game as Tyler Herro was able to get an open look at the buzzer for the win, but unfortunately it didn’t fall, and Alabama held on to win it 77-75.
Here are a few final thoughts from the SEC opener:
Poor shooting in the second half
After the way the game started, it appeared that Kentucky was going to be in for a big day on the offensive end of the floor as they couldn’t seem to miss throughout the first half.
Unfortunately, in the second it was a completely different result as it seemed like a lid was on the rim for the Cats. They also couldn’t get the three-pointers to drop allowing Bama to pack the lane and make it almost impossible to score on the inside.
Kentucky finished 5/18 (29%) from three and just 43% from the field. When you factor in a 29% three-point shooter on Alabama going 6/8 from deep, it becomes a recipe for a loss.
Worst game at Kentucky for Reid Travis
So far this season, Reid Travis has been the most consistent player for this team. Unfortunately, everyone has a bad game and today was Travis’ turn to have one.
He just seemed a step behind throughout this one. He had 12 points and 6 boards, but most of his production was in the first 10 minutes of the game. After that, he looked like a completely different player.
It is evident that he struggles with long athletics bigs and that is exactly what Bama has. But like Coach Cal said in his post-game press conference, Travis should be the least of Kentucky’s worries going forward.
Kentucky was beaten on the glass
One thing that the Cats have done well all year is beat teams in the rebounding battle. That was not the case today as Bama won the battle 40-32.
However, I wouldn’t be too worried about that seeing how many shots the Cats missed in the second half.
This team dominated the glass against UNC, who is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, so I don’t expect this to be a trend going forward.
It is not time to panic
Kentucky just lost an SEC road game to a team that probably won’t play that good again this season. It was just their night.
The SEC is no cake walk anymore, and anything can happen when you go on the road no matter who you are playing.
So put this one out of your head, enjoy the weekend full of playoff football and get ready to get back on the winning side of things Tuesday night against Texas A&M.
Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Final Score: Alabama 77, No. 13/14 Kentucky 75
Team Records and Series Notes
· Kentucky fell to 10-3 on the season and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Alabama improved to 10-3 and 1-0 to begin league play.
· In the 150th meeting between the two schools, UK’s series lead is still 112-38 over Alabama.
· The Wildcats’ win streak over Alabama was snapped at 10 games.
o Kentucky has still won 12 of the last 14 and 17 of the last 20 matchups over Alabama.
o UK is now 31-24 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
· Next for Kentucky: The Wildcats’ SEC home opener will be Tuesday vs. Texas A&M. That game will be televised on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. ET
o UK has won 48 regular-season SEC titles and five under Calipari
In the First Half
· Kentucky started Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the sixth time this season and fifth game in a row.
· Travis scored the Cats’ first two buckets of the game, one via hook shot and the other by way of a slam dunk.
· Both teams came out on fire. Alabama led 16-15 at the first media timeout (14:56 mark). At that point Alabama was 7 for 10 from the floor with two 3-pointers while UK was 7 for 9, making its lone trey attempt (Herro).
o Travis had six points during the run, including two dunks.
o All five of UK starters scored during the fast start.
· Travis had a solid first half. He was in double figures by the 9:38 mark and finished with 10 points and four rebounds in the first stanza.
· After Alabama took a 19-16 lead with an early barrage of 3-pointers, UK went on an 11-3 run to take a 27-22 lead heading into the under-8 timeout.
· Alabama took a 32-29 lead on an 8-0 run. Washington ended the run with a pair of free throws, but Tevin Mack answered with a 3.
· Mack was on fire in the first half. He torched the Cats for 20 first-half points – matching his season high – on 7-of-9 shooting, including 6 of 6 from 3-point range.
o He came into the game averaging 8.3 points while shooting 29.6 percent from 3-point range.
o He set his career high for 3-pointers in the first half alone. His previous high was five over a full game.
· Kentucky shot 50 percent in the first half and led 40-38 at halftime.
In the Second Half
· The Wildcats started the second half the same way it started the first: Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Travis.
· UK committed three charges in the opening minutes to aid an 8-0 Alabama run and fell behind 46-40.
· Immanuel Quickley stopped the 8-0 Alabama run with his second 3-pointer of the game to spark a 7-0 Kentucky streak.
· Alabama took methodical control of the game on the defensive end. The Crimson Tide limited UK to just five makes in its first 19 attempts in the second half. A 7-0 Alabama run increased the Crimson Tide’s lead to 61-53 before Nick Richards ended a 3:03 scoring drought with a free throw.
· UK fell behind by double digits, 68-58, after five straight points from Lewis.
· An inability to make shots in the second half was ultimately the deciding factor for Kentucky. The Wildcats made just 13 of 35 shots in the final 20 minutes, a handful of them coming late during a furious comeback.
· After falling behind by 11, UK made it interesting down the stretch with a suffocating full-court press in the final minutes. The Wildcats got as close one point after a steal by Hagans and a breakaway dunk by Washington. Alabama made 1 of 2 free throws, setting up for UK to tie or win the game. Herro got off a last-second 3-point attempt from straightaway at the buzzer but it caromed off the back of the rim.
· There were a total of nine ties and 10 lead changes.
· UK is now 8-2 in SEC openers under Calipari.
· The Wildcats are 93-44 in true road games under Calipari.
· UK scored 20 points off 17 Alabama turnovers.
o Seven of the turnovers were Kentucky steals.
· Kentucky blocked just one shot, a season low. The Wildcats had tallied four or more blocks in the previous 11 games.
· UK gave up seven Alabama dunks, all to Donta Hall (four) and Herbert Jones (three).
· The Wildcats surrendered 10 3-pointers, the fifth time this season they’ve allowed 10 or more treys.
· PJ Washington, led the Wildcats in scoring with 15 points. He also had a team-high-tying seven rebounds to go along with one steal and an assist.
· He has scored in double figures six times this season.
· He’s been the team’s rebounding leader seven times.
· Keldon Johnson, UK’s leading scorer for the season, scored 13 points and has reached double figures in all but one game this season. He also added game-high-tying seven boards, a career-high four assists and a career-high-tying three steals.
· He also had three steals against North Carolina.
· He’s hit at least one 3-pointer in seven straight.
· Ashton Hagans reached his career high in scoring for the second straight game, this time pouring in 12 points after tallying 11 against Louisville in the last game.
· He dished out six assists, one shy of his career high.
· He’s passed out three or more assists in 10 games this season, including each of the last seven.
· He added three steals and has corralled at least three steals in four games this season, including each of the last three games.
· Reid Travis finished the game with 12 points, six boards and an assist.
· He’s scored in double figures in 10 games this season.
· Immanuel Quickley chipped in with eight points and connected on a career-high-tying two 3-pointers.
· Tyler Herro was the fifth Wildcat to reach double-figure scoring with 12 points.
· He’s logged double-digit scoring in 10 games this season and has topped 10 or more in seven straight.
· He’s averaging 16.0 points per game during that stretch.
· Calipari is now 285-67 at UK.
· Calipari has a 730-207 all-time on-court record.
· He is still 12 wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
· Calipari is now 15-4 all-time vs. Alabama and 14-3 as the coach at Kentucky.
· It was Calipari’s first loss to Alabama head coach Avery Johnson. Calipari’s record is now 7-1 vs. Johnson.