Courtesy of UA Athletics
It hasn’t happened much under head coach Nate Oats, but nothing went right offensively for the Alabama Crimson Tide (14-9, 4-6) on Saturday. They dropped the second home game of the year to the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (19-4, 8-2), 66-55.
The Crimson Tide shot 28.1% from the field and made just three of their 30 3-point attempts. Alabama also turned the ball over 15 times. Alabama set its season low in points, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
“Frustrating shooting night,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “Hard to win games going 3-for-30 from 3. I thought some of our missed shots affected us on the defensive end down the stretch. If you miss some shots, you miss some shots, but we’ve got to be a little bit more mentally tough.”
Coming into the game, rebounding and defense were major points of emphasis, and Alabama had plenty of success on the glass and on the defensive end all game. Alabama out-rebounded Kentucky 47-44. The Wildcats shot just 24-for-60 from the field, and the Crimson Tide forced Kentucky into 15 turnovers.
“This wasn’t going to be one-on-one with Tshiebwe,” Alabama forward Charles Bediako said. “We needed team rebounds, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
An average shooting night for Alabama could have led to a victory, but it was nowhere close to that.
“It’s not as if we were forcing bad shots,” Oats said. “We had good looks. We missed some layups. For whatever reason, we couldn’t get the ball to drop.”
Kentucky took a different route, deciding it would not shoot the 3-point shot much after starting cold from deep. The Wildcats only shot 11 3s in the game.
But Alabama kept heaving it up repeatedly, to no avail. Guards Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford struggled. Quinerly and Shackelford shot 2-for-11. Shackelford included zero makes from deep on the seven he attempted.
The only semi-positive for the Crimson Tide was Bediako, who played one of his best games of the season in limited minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds, all while holding down Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe.
Tshiebwe shot just 4-for-13 from the field. He did, however, take over the glass in the second half, grabbing 11 rebounds in the second frame alone. The only Wildcat who had a positive offensive performance was TyTy Washington Jr., who finished the game with 15 points.
Alabama came out of the gate strong, leading 9-1 under three minutes in.
Kentucky responded, going on a 28-13 run to take a 29-22 lead with 3:02 to play in the first half. The Wildcats took a 33-27 lead into the locker room.
For a short period in the second half, the Crimson Tide showed life. After two free throws by forward James Rojas, Alabama cut the lead to 4 with over 14 to go. That was the last positive moment for the Crimson Tide.
Kentucky went on another big run, outscoring Alabama 20-7 over the next 12 minutes to put the game away.
Saturday’s game ends the three-game stretch that the Crimson Tide played against top-five teams.
“It would’ve been nice to get two out of the three,” Oats said. “Our league schedule is tough. We’ve gotten some quality wins for our resume. We ended up out-rebounding Kentucky. Not many teams have done that. We’re there. We’ve just got to make some shots.”
“It was a tough three-game stretch, but there’s other tough teams in the SEC,” guard Keon Ellis said. “We’ve got to treat every game moving forward as a must win, because we need all the wins we can get.”
With the loss, the Crimson Tide fall to 4-6 in conference play with plenty of challenges ahead. The first will be a date in Oxford, Mississippi, with the Ole Miss Rebels. That game is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.