The final score was Kentucky 90 – Alabama 81, which is always good. Any win in the SEC is big. Coming off a game where a six game winning streak was shattered by Tennessee made the game even more important.
It goes without saying that this version of the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team is talented. They are not only fun to watch but they have a ton of potential, we have seen it on display against Kansas and the first match up with Tennessee.
Sure, Tennessee used that first game (107-79 loss) to motivate them for the rematch, but going into the Alabama game there was an anxiousness about how the Cats would bounce back.
Why wouldn’t there be?
Alabama opened the game and could not miss a shot. Blistering the Wildcats from outside, the Tide launched an aerial assault on Kentucky that left then trailing most of the first half. Alabama made 9 three pointers and built a 13 point lead with a little over 5 minutes to go in the first period.
But then, the moment we had been waiting for happened – Kellan Grady ignited a 13-0 Wildcat run and when the first half ended, the Cats had clawed their way into the lead.
Playing with no real point guard with Ty Ty Washington and Sahvir Wheeler both hurt, the team had every excuse not to play well. As a matter of note – as the team moves toward March there will be a real emphasis placed on getting the team healthy enough for the tournament run, which means that it is time for the next man to step up and contribute to make the team go.
By his own description, Coach Cal admitted, “I don’t know what to expect.”
He locked down practice for two days, they practiced with different combinations and rotations, and had to come up with a plan that would slide Davion Mintz and Grady splitting the duty at point.
Whether fans realized it or not, they may have just watched the most important game of the Kentucky season. The team has taken plenty of dings when players got hurt. Some of the losses and less than stellar efforts low-lighted those games.
Against Alabama, we got the chance to watch a team not just play, but take a punch, and comeback without 40% of their starting lineup available.
Alabama is a real top 25 team, being two starters down meant some other players did have to step up – which they did.
It meant some role players would have to expand their roles –which they did.
It meant they would have to find the will to win – which they did.
It also meant they would have to find a way to win – and they found a way not just to win, but to win impressively.
This game may be forgotten depending on how deep the Wildcats go in the tournament and what happens next, but this game may have been most impressive and most important for seeing how the team has matured and what the future might be. This one very well may be The Game to remember this season.