Kentucky 86, Alabama 63: Cats take full advantage of depleted Tide

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Mar 10, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Collin Sexton (2) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) battle for position on a rebound as forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) and guard Dazon Ingram (12) and forward Braxton Key (25) look on during the semifinals of the SEC Conference Tournament at Scottrade Center. Kentucky won 86-63. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; guard Collin Sexton (2) and forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) battle for position on a rebound as forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (1) and guard Dazon Ingram (12) and forward Braxton Key (25) look on during the semifinals of the SEC Conference Tournament at Scottrade Center. Kentucky won 86-63. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

By
TideFans.com Staff
March 10, 2018

Kentucky’s offense proved unstoppable in the second half, as the No. 4 Wildcats shot better than 84 percent after the break to bury ninth-seeded 86-63 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.

What did we learn today?: A lack of secondary scorers is going to be what ultimately dooms this team. With no available to present a threat in the paint, UK was able to throw everything at defending without worrying much about anyone else. Even with a jury-rigged starting five, it is completely unacceptable for four of those to combine for just nine points, including shutouts for and Galin Smith.

It is equally unacceptable for sophomore leaders and to combine for only seven points on 3-for-16 shooting. Yes they were tired. Yes losing Hall to a concussion was deflating. Yes the Wildcats are playing defense this weekend. But too many guys disappear when things get tough.

What were the biggest concerns?: UK averages a little more than five 3-pointers made per game and shoots in the neighborhood of 35 percent from deep. But Saturday the Wildcats went 12-for-18 behind the arc, led by Wenyen Gabriel’s record-setting 7-for-7 performance. Defending the perimeter has been an Achilles heel all season for the Crimson Tide, and UK took advantage where UK could not. It wasn’t a matter of playing hard, as clawed its way to a 31-27 rebounding advantage and forced 10 turnovers. But with the offense never clicking and Kentucky steadily building its lead, never truly threatened after halftime and the defensive intensity couldn’t help but fade away.

What was the best part of the game?: John Petty finally knocking the lid off the rim. His big outburst came in garbage time, although Kentucky didn’t regard it as such once he briefly trimmed the lead down to nine points late, but it was great to see Petty finally make shots in an away jersey. His 18 points, powered by five 3-pointers, were more than he’d scored in the last four games combined and the most he has scored outside the state of Alabama. The Tide desperately needs him to be confident and effective as it tries for its first NCAA victory since 2006.

Who was the star?: should be a lock for the all-tournament team even without reaching the final. It wasn’t his most efficient shooting day but he kept grinding and wound up with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists. By comparison, Kentucky held Yante Maten to nine of ’s 49 points in the quarterfinals. His 79 points for the tournament are an record.

What’s next?: The Tide officially learns whether it has broken a five-year NCAA drought on Sunday’s selection show, which switches to TBS for the first time and begins at 5 p.m. Central.

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