Alabama thrashes Cats in showdown for SEC lead
Alabama versus Kentucky was billed as an enticing showdown for the SEC lead on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
Only one team held up its end of the bargain.
The Crimson Tide dominated the highly anticipated matchup, rolling to an 85-65 win to stay atop the league standings.
It marked Alabama's first win in Lexington since 2006 and only the 11th time the Tide has won at UK in the history of the lopsided series.
Alabama (10-3, 5-0 SEC) made 14 3-pointers and routinely broke down Wildcat defenders off the dribble for 30 points in the paint. Senior guard John Petty, a one-time UK recruiting target, hit four of those 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points.
According to Petty, Alabama set the tone early. "The first four minutes basically tells who is ready to play. Our coaching staff and our team harps on coming out and being the more aggressive team and more focused team in the first four minutes. That’s what we did tonight.”
Petty's backcourt mate, Jaden Shackleford, added 18 points for the Tide, who won despite playing most of the game without three of their top players due to injuries.
Kentucky (4-7, 3-1 SEC) saw its three-game win streak come to an end after one of its poorer showings of a frustrating season. The Cats shot 34% from the field, 22% from the arc, and committed 19 turnovers leading to 29 points for the Tide.
"Not one of our players played well. I obviously didn't coach well," UK head coach John Calipari said. "... We got beat every which way but loose.
"I'm not even sure I'll watch this tape. Move on to the next one."
Kentucky was led by freshman forward Isaiah Jackson with 14 points, but 10 of those came in the final six-plus minutes of the game after the Cats had fallen behind by 20. Freshman guard Devin Askew (12) and sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. (10) were the only other UK players in double-figures.
"Obviously Kentucky is a little bit down this year, but they’re still Kentucky," Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "I mean, they’ve got pros on that team that our guys went head-to-head with and guarded."
It marked the third-worst loss for Kentucky at Rupp Arena since the venue opened in 1976. Only LSU (35, 1987) and Indiana (23, 1988) hold larger victories over the Cats in Lexington.
"It was a butt-whipping, for sure," UK redshirt freshman wing Dontaie Allen said. "... Everybody just has to stay together, and I preach to everybody on the team to just stay as one because our story is not over.”
Kentucky played with heavy hearts after learning earlier on Tuesday that former walk-on Ben Jordan, a center on last year's team and a pitcher for the UK baseball squad, died at age 22.
Alabama dominated the game from the opening tip. Kentucky did not hold a lead for a single second at Rupp Arena, the first time that has occurred since 2009 against Mississippi State, the dreadful final season under Billy Gillispie. The deficit was manageable for most of the first half until the Crimson Tide reeled off a 16-4 run to take command. The Cats had no answers for Nate Oats' breakneck offensive scheme, stopping neither the 3-point shot nor the dribble-drive. It may have been the worst all-around defensive performance of the Calipari era.
John Petty, Alabama -- The one-time Kentucky recruiting target lit up the Cats for a game-high 23 points, including four of the Crimson Tide's 14 makes from beyond the 3-point arc. He knocked down as many treys as the entire UK roster.
Alabama had a +30 advantage from the 3-point arc, knocking down 14 of its 30 attempts from long range.
"What I told them after (the game) was that I'm going to find five guys that will fight, and that's who I'll play." -- UK head coach John Calipari
Kentucky travels to Auburn for a 2 p.m. ET tipoff on Saturday. Bruce Pearl's Tigers (6-6, 0-4 SEC) play at Georgia on Wednesday night prior to the matchup with the Cats.
FINAL: Alabama 85, Kentucky 65— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) January 13, 2021
We thought the Crimson Tide might be the best team in the SEC coming into this matchup, but no one expected this. Bama hits 14 3s, scores 29 points off 19 UK turnovers for first win at Rupp Arena since 2006. pic.twitter.com/UOZs9ZdaxC