TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Can Kentucky basketball fix it’s defense? Will the Wildcats play up to their (slightly surprising) No. 3 seed in the initial NCAA Tournament bracket reveal? Did three early morning fire alarms at the team hotel affect the Wildcats? We’ll find out today at Alabama.
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FINAL: Kentucky 67, Alabama 58
57-51 UK, 1:31 2H: Briscoe delivered again with a tough bucket after Alabama got within six. He’s up to 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. But the Tide won’t go away. Good test for this Kentucky team.
55-45 UK, 3:48 2H: Well that was huge, Isaiah Briscoe. The guy who was 2 for 8 from the field and 0 for 5 at the line halted Bama’s run with a huge three-point play, then swished a jumper to answer the Tide’s shot on the other end. He’s up to 9 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Kentucky has some breathing room and this place is pretty quiet again.
50-43 UK, 4:42 2H: Kentucky is reeling now and Coleman Coliseum is rocking. Adebayo fouled out with 6:01 to go and Fox, Humphries and Hawkins all have four fouls apiece. The Cats are shooting just 38.9 percent (2 of 14 from three) and Alabama suddenly has all the momentum, riding a 7-0 run to make this a real game now.
48-35 UK, 7:51 2H: Bam Adebayo picked up his fourth foul with 9:53 to go and the Tide have been trying to chip away at what was an 18-point lead. UK point guard De’Aaron Fox has had a rough day: 2 of 9 FG, 0-2 threes, 1 assist, 2 turnovers. Fellow guard Isaiah Brisoce is also 2 of 8 shooting and 0 for 4 at the line, but he has 9 rebounds and 4 assists. It’s been a weird game, but the Cats have definitely defended better. Alabama is shooting 35.7 percent with 14 turnovers and only 4 assists.
THE STREAK IS DEAD: Malik Monk, after 95 consecutive minutes without a rebound, has finally grabbed one with 15:22 to go at Alabama. That was a crazy drought for a guy who can jump out of the gym.
39-24 UK, 15:46 2H: Kentucky is stepping on the gas now. The defense continues to swarm and Bam Adebayo is playing great: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks. Monk has hit both his mid-range jumpers to start this half and is also up to 12 points (but still no rebounds or assists). The Wildcats have forced 11 turnovers and held Alabama to 34.5 percent shooting so far, a defensive improvement to be sure (against an offensively challenged opponent).
HALFTIME: Kentucky 29, Alabama 20
29-19 UK, 58.8 1H: Dominique Hawkins is hustling. After a great steal and layup, he’s up to 5 points, 3 assists and a steal in 7 minutes off the bench. Bam Adebayo is also playing a solid half: 8 points, 4 rebounds and a block. The rest of these Cats? Not so much. Alas, it’s a 10-point lead on the road in league play. No doubt John Calipari will take it.
22-19 UK, 3:54 1H: Malik Monk Rebound Watch continues. He had one go right off his hands, and it’s now 90 consecutive minutes without a board. He also picked up his second foul with 4:31 to go in the half. Since taking a 20-11 lead, the Cats have scored just two points in the last five minutes (1 for 7 shooting). If Alabama wasn’t equally inept, UK would be in real trouble.
20-15 UK, 6:55 1H: A couple of nice lobs to and finishes by Bam Adebayo, thena sweet finish by Isaiah Briscoe pushed the lead to nine points and the Wildcats looked like they’d settled in. It’s been a mess since then. UK hasn’t scored in the last 2:26, missing its last three shots. Also: Monk is up to 88 straight minutes without a board. Calipari sat him for 2 ½ minutes this half, perhaps to make that point. He did record a hellacious block soon after checking back in, so he’s efforting on the non-offensive end. Isaac Humphries, Hawkins and Gabriel all have two fouls now, though, and UK had nine fouls in the first nine minutes.
12-7 UK, 11:53 1H: The Wildcats are on an 8-0 run, but that doesn’t mean it’s pretty. They’re up to eight fouls, including two each on Dominique Hawkins and Wenyen Gabriel. Malik Monk has 8 early points (he’s 2 of 3 from 3-point range) but still no rebounds. He’s on a ridiculous streak of 84 consecutive minutes played without a single board. Gotta change.
7-4 Alabama, 15:34 1H: Kentucky already has four fouls (one for every starter but Isaiah Briscoe) and the Cats are 2 of 7 shooting. Not a super-inspired start on the road. Maybe they’re tired.