The biggest game of the year is still two days away, and it’s being played by the football team, not Alabama’s men’s basketball squad. But that didn’t stop thousands from filling up Coleman Coliseum, where the Crimson Tide were hopeful to give Kentucky a run for its money Saturday.
The matchup started out close, with Alabama trailing by only two points around the 11-minute mark. But behind the dominant tandem of Jamal Murray and Alex Poythress, Kentucky steadily pulled away, extending the gap to double digits by halftime.
With the 77-61 victory, Kentucky notched its third conference win and its 11th victory of the season. In need of a bounce-back performance after an ugly showing at LSU, the Wildcats rose to the occasion.
The turning point: Kentucky had a comfortable 10-point lead at the half, but considering the Wildcats led by 16 at one point in the first half, the 10-point cushion wasn’t as large as the Wildcats would’ve liked. In his halftime interview, John Calipari very much indicated that the second half would be a battle and it was, as Alabama cut the lead to seven to open the half. At the 14:56 minute mark, Alabama trailed by only four. The turning point came when Isaiah Briscoe hit a pair of back-to-back jumpers with 12:42 and 12:17 remaining in the game to extend Kentucky’s lead back to 10.
MVP: Alex Poythress. Poythress and Jamal Murray exploded in the first half, scoring 31 of the WIldcats’ 38 first-half points, including 27-straight to open the game. Another Kentucky player didn’t score until 3:56 remained in the first half when Tyler Ulis drained a jumper. Poythress’ showing came in the timeliest of manners for Kentucky, as freshman forward Skal Labissiere had three fouls, including a technical, fewer than just seven minutes into the game. Poythress ended the night with a career-high 25 points, in addition to seven rebounds.
Memorable moment: With 13:41 left in the first half, Labissiere was charged with a personal foul, followed by a technical, which immediately gave him three fouls on the night. But initially, it wasn’t totally clear why he was charged with the technical. Here’s the video, from ESPN. It appears as if Labissiere was jawing back and forth with Alabama guard Arthur Edwards, but it certainly wasn’t as obvious as many technicals are.
Starting lineup: Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Alex Poythress, Jamal Murray
Off the bench: Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, Mychal Mulder, Derek Willis
What’s next: Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff with Mississippi State.