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Kentucky sweeps Alabama: 4 things to know and postgame cheers

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The shorthanded Cats come away with a huge win over a top 25 Bama squad.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Playing without it’s two starting guards, the short-handed Kentucky Wildcats pulled off one of their best wins of the season with a 90-81 win over the No. 25 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena

TyTy Washington (leg) and Sahvir Wheeler (wrist) were both unavailable against the Crimson Tide, who scorched the nets early to race out to a quick lead before Kentucky fought back to go on a 13-0 run to end the half and take a 47-46 lead at the break.

The Wildcats kicked things into high gear in the second half, taking control of the game and moving to 22-5 overall, 11-3 in SEC play, with a home date against LSU slated for Wednesday night at 9:00 pm ET.

Kellan Grady led Kentucky with 25 points, while Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds to record his 21st double-double of the season. Keion Brooks also scored in double figures with 18 points, while Jacob Tippin added 13.

Alabama Heats Up Early

After going just 3-for-30 from three-point range in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was destined to reverse course after starting the game 9-for-12 from behind the arc and looked to be ready to pull off an upset in front of a sell-out crowd at Rupp Arena.

The Crimson Tide then hit a cold spell, missing its last 10 threes of the half and the Wildcats stormed back to go on a 13-0 run to close the half with 47-46 lead at halftime.

Kellan Grady Takes Over

Grady was simply outstanding running the point and hit some key shots in the second half to help the Wildcats pull away for the victory.

The Davidson transfer has emerged as the SEC’s best three-point shooter and also has a knack of hitting big shots in crucial moments. His back-to-back threes in the second half helped push Kentucky ahead for good at the 13:55 mark to give the Wildcats at 67-58 advantage and control over the second half. Most importantly, Grady’s veteran leadership was much needed when things could have easily gone south midway through the opening half as Kentucky dug deep for its 22nd win of the year.

Next Man Up - Jacob Toppin

With Wheeler and Washington unavailable, Coach John Calipari started three bigs for the first time this season in Tshiebwe, Brooks and Toppin to go with the guard tandem of Grady and Mintz, who each shared point guard duties.

The game also produced some unusual lineups that at one time included freshman Bruce Hopkins, Damion Collins with Dontaie Allen, Toppin and Brooks.

Toppin fought and clawed his way to another standout performance, finishing with 13 points. The junior forward was active around the game the entire game and has the ability to hit the jumper and create added space for Tshiebwe in the post.

Toppin and Brooks will need to find even more consistency to help with scoring and rebounding as the Wildcats get one step closer to the postseason.

Oscar Watch

Oscar Tshiebwe’s campaign for National Player of the Year continued to build momentum on Saturday as the nation’s leading rebounder finished with his 21st double-double of the year. This was a game Kentucky had to have a big game from Tshiebwe to win, and he delivered with 21 points, 14 boards, three assists, a steal and a block.

The West Virginia transfer has been a one-man wrecking crew this season and continues to move up NBA Draft boards as he chases the single-season rebounding record at Kentucky. He’s also been a solid defender as one of the team’s leaders in steals and blocked shots.

Now it’s time to get healthy and make a deep run in March.