Still, Calipari was thrilled his team topped Alabama 55-48 on
Tuesday night at Rupp Arena despite shooting 32.7 percent and 5 of
18 from 3-point range.
"I'm happy. We're still not all the way back," Calipari said. "Guys
were really tentative. James Young, 1 for 11. Aaron Harrison was 1
for 6 from the three. We had open looks and passed on open looks.
Look, this is a young team. They got a little rattled."
Power forward Julius Randle had his 17th double-double of the
season. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. His two free
throws with 3:10 to play gave Kentucky a 55-47 lead.
The Wildcats (22-8, 12-5 SEC) did not score after that, but Alabama
(12-18, 6-11) was just as cold and mustered only one free throw in
the final five minutes.
Alabama guard Trevor Releford's free throw with 2:46 to play was
Alabama's final point. He led the Tide with 13 points.
The Tide led 32-28 with 19 minutes to play, but a 15-2 run capped by
center Willie Cauley-Stein's putback dunk with 9:58 left gave the
Wildcats their biggest lead of the night.
Senior reserves Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood served as Kentucky's
starting guards on Senior Night and the two scored the team's first
two baskets, both 3-pointers. But Kentucky's offense remained as
cold as it was in a 72-67 upset loss at South Carolina on Saturday.
After Polson hit a 3-pointer to give Kentucky a 6-4 lead with 16
minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats went six minutes
without a field goal.
Meanwhile, Releford had the hot hand. He scored nine points in the
first 10 minutes and led the Crimson Tide to a first-half lead as
large as four points.
"I thought in the first half our guys did a really good job of
trying to sweep the floor a little bit and keep them from taking
advantage of the size advantage that they had," Alabama coach
Anthony Grant said. "In the second half, I thought they hit some
timely shots from the perimeter that were somewhat momentum-changing
"You know, I think that's just part of the game in terms of guys
stepping up and making plays," he said. "They needed to."
[to top of second column]
Even though Kentucky's offense was ice cold, the Crimson Tide could
not create space. Alabama went into the locker room at halftime with
a 28-25 lead, but the deficit could have been much worse than three
points for the Wildcats.
Kentucky was 6 of 25 from the floor in the first half, but 11-of-15
first-half foul shooting kept the Wildcats in the game.
The Wildcats didn't do much different in the second half. Calipari
didn't play a different rotation of players or attack the basket in
a different way. Hood attributed part of the Wildcats' shooting
struggles to shooting with too much conscience and not moving on
after misses or other distractions.
"Just go play," Hood said. "That's the thing. Go play. Players are
going to play, coaches are going to coach, and officials are going
to officiate. You can't get all boggled up with the officials and
how they're calling the game or if Coach is on you or whatever.
We're 18-year-old men. Eighteen and above. I'm 22. We know how to
play basketball at this point. Just got to go play."
In the second half, poor offensive execution didn't affect the
Wildcats' defense as much, and it showed in the number of stops and
tough shots into which they forced Alabama. After making seven of
their first 11 shots in the second half, the Wildcats sank right
back into what had plagued them in the first half.
But the Wildcats weren't thinking about it, and Calipari was happy.
"We've got a bunch of young guys out there, talking them through
stuff," Calipari said. "Let me just say: You shoot 32 percent and
win, you're really happy as a coach. You're happy."
NOTES: Kentucky has never lost three games in a row under coach John
Calipari. The Wildcats lost Thursday at home to Arkansas and on the
road Saturday to South Carolina. ... G Jarrod Polson and G Jon Hood
started on Senior Night. It was Hood's first career start. A
fifth-year senior, Hood is the only player left from Calipari's
first signing class at Kentucky. ... Alabama is 6-22 at Rupp Arena
since it opened in 1976.
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