The University of Alabama kept the game within striking distance against Kentucky but was never able to deliver the final blow to the second-ranked Wildcats, falling on the road 77-71.
Alabama (13-6, 2-3) trailed the entire second half and got the game within two points with less than a minute remaining. But the Wildcats made their final eight free throws and improved to 19-1 on the season.
Failing to make the stop
It’s hard to fault a defense that leads the league in points allowed, but against Kentucky the Tide didn’t get the stop it needed. Every time the offense got the game within striking defense, the Wildcats had an answer on the other end of the court.
When the defense was in the right position, it made mental errors, fouling Kentucky on already contested shots. Once again, the free throw line doomed the Tide. After losing the battle at the charity stripe to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt by a combined 41 free throw attempts to just 15 in the previous two games, Alabama continued to surrender easy points from the line to Kentucky. Alabama handed the Wildcats a season-high 40 free throw attempts. UK made 27 of them.
As Releford goes, so goes the Tide
Coming into Saturday’s action, the Tide was a perfect 7-0 when Trevor Releford scored more than 14 points. Against Kentucky he did just that, making 6 of 8 shots for 17 points, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
Releford was Alabama’s saving grace in the second half, scoring all of his points in the final period. He kept the game close, exploiting Kentucky in the paint and playing smart with the basketball, not turning the ball over to a stingy Wildcats defense. Releford was the Tide’s X-factor in Lexington, out-dueling the talented Kentucky underclassmen with hustle and intelligence. He finished the game with three assists and two steals.
Did Nick Jacobs grow up in front of our eyes in Lexington? The freshman power forward from Atlanta did not back down from the much-heralded Kentucky big men, hitting 4 of 10 shots for 9 points. Coming into today’s game he averaged 5.3 points per game. … JaMychal Green came up large in arguably the biggest game of the year to date for Alabama, pouring in 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting. He also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. … Tony Mitchell broke a scoreless streak but didn’t turn in the game you’d hope for against a top-5 team on national television. He got in early foul trouble that put himself out of the competition and played just 20 minutes. He finished with 6 points on 2 of 9 shooting and fouled out. … Alabama travels to Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday to take on the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. CT.