Kentucky 73, Alabama 55: Tide falls meekly as UK approaches peak form

Dec 29, 2018; Louisville, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC Yum! Center. Kentucky defeated Louisville 71-58. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2018; Louisville, KY, USA; head coach John Calipari reacts during the second half against the Louisville at KFC Yum! Center. Kentucky defeated Louisville 71-58. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY

By Chris DePew
March 15,

For the fourth consecutive season, the Crimson crashed out of the on a Big Blue wave, as fourth-ranked dispatched Alabama 73-55 in a quarterfinal matchup in Nashville.

What did we learn today?: The difference in a that has grown and formed an identity since the start of conference play versus one that remains a collection of disjointed parts. Bama played hard and did its best to execute the strategy it was given, even with the rolling to an early double-digit lead and never losing control of the game. But while Bama stumbled its way through trying to think about what it had to do, played to the identity burned into its DNA. The Cats swipe balls (eight steals), swat shots (11 blocks) and deny good looks at the basket (the shot 30.4 percent). On offense they figure out quickly who’s clicking that night and aren’t afraid to go back to him again and again (Tyler Herro with a game-high 20 points). UK wasn’t perfect, but it played well enough that even the sharpest Tide team would have struggled to win. But Alabama never gave itself a chance with too many mental errors and slow-starting veterans. At 18-15, it has been a season filled with some bad moments, a handful of good ones and too many nights where things were off kilter by just enough to likely keep this team out of the NCAA tournament.

What were the biggest concerns?: The Crimson has never been great at finishing around the rim, but it was absolutely terrible in Music City, making just four of its 18 layup attempts against a night after going 10-for-21 in that same category versus Ole Miss. None of Bama’s better shooters could get going, with 1-for-5 from the field, John Petty 2-for-7 and Tevin Mack 0-for-7. That won’t get the done against Owensboro School of Trucking, much less a favorite to make the Final Four. Alabama dug itself a hole with early turnovers and got pounded on the glass, but even better play in those areas wouldn’t have made up for the scoring drought.

What was the best part of the game?: Seeing get off the mat in his last meaningful game. With two rebounds and no points at halftime, it looked like Hall’s farewell to the would be especially sour. But he rallied to make his last three shot attempts, went 8-for-8 at the foul line and finished with a respectable 14 points and six rebounds. His senior year wasn’t quite the breakthrough he had hoped for, but he will be remembered as a hard worker who transformed himself from a raw foul-prone shot blocker to a complete two-way post player.

Who was the star?: Wouldn’t it have been nice to see what this misfiring offense could have done if had gotten regular minutes all winter? Bama played 10 players Friday. Eight of them shot less than 50 percent from the field and Galin Smith (2-for-3, 5 points) disappeared after the opening minutes. Reese stepped into that void and sank six of his 12 shots, including three from behind the arc, to finish with 15 points along with six rebounds. No he isn’t a great defender, but there isn’t a player on the roster without at least one Grand Canyon-sized hole in his game.

What’s next?: Alabama will hear its name called sometime on Selection Sunday, but likely not until the announces its field on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. Central.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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