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On Wednesday night, the 2017-18 Cats joined a short list of six other Kentucky basketball teams that have lost four games in a row when they fell by 10 points at Auburn to the league leading Tigers. The Cats fought the good fight for 33 minutes, and led by 4 points, 57-53, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:52 remaining. The Cats and Tigers traded baskets to a 59-55 Kentucky lead, and when the Cats had a chance to extend their lead, a 3 point attempt by Hamidou Diallo from the left corner touched every inch of the rim before spinning out and away from the basket. Auburn scored the next 5 points to move back on top, 60-59, and Auburn extended the lead to 5 points, 66-61 at the under 4 media timeout. Over the final four minutes, Auburn outscored the Cats 10-5 for the final 10 point margin, 76-66.
The Cats return to Rupp Arena for perhaps the most important home game of the 2017-18 basketball season. Given the current four game losing streak, the Cats are desperate to win and stop the streak now because a loss to Alabama on Saturday afternoon, would make this only the third UK team in the last 89 seasons to lose at least five in a row.
The Cats hold a 110-37 overall record over Alabama in a series that goes back to 1923. In games played in Lexington, the Cats hold a 56-10 advantage, and for games played in Kentucky, but not on the Kentucky campus, the Cats are 5-0. During the Calipari Era, the Cats hold a 12-2 advantage, including 5-0 at Rupp.
Alabama currently tied with Missouri and Florida for 3 rd in the SEC with a 8-5 conference record, and overall Alabama sports a 17-9 record. Alabama's most impressive win of the season was over #13 Auburn by 5 in Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide's most difficult loss was to #95 Minnesota by 5 on a neutral court. Alabama's 17-9, 8-5 record has produced an ANE of 0.164 ppp (#44) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.090 ppp (#21). The Cats' 17-9, 6-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.171 ppp (#41) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.106 ppp (#7). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Kentucky by 6 points, 75-69, in a game played at a pace of 74 possessions. Pomeroy has the Kentucky favored by 4, 72-68 with a pace of 70 possessions. Vegas opened today with Kentucky a 3 1/2 point favorite.
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For the second consecutive game, Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, and Hamidou Diallo against Alabama. PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Quade Green represent the entire experienced bench tonight unless Sacha Killeya-Jones is now available.
The Kentucky controls the opening tip and fail to score. Alabama scores on its first possession with a 3 pointer. The Cats take their first lead and 4-3, and again at 6-5, but Kevin Knox commits his second foul in the game, and 'Bama makes a pair of free throws to take the early 1 point lead, 7-6, at the under 16 media timeout. In addition to the free throws possession, Alabama got off 7 shots to only 5 for the Cats in the early going due to a 1-0 disadvantage on turnovers for the Cats, and a 2-0 advantage on the offensive glass for the Crimson Tide. In an extended 2 nd segment, the Cats and Crimson Tide traded leads, with Alabama maintaining its early 1 point lead at the under 12 media timeout with 11:09 remaining.
In a shortened 3 rd segment, the Cats use one more possession than Alabama to ease into a 1 point lead, 20-19, at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, the Cats extended their lead to 4 points, and played from the lead for nearly all of this segment, and lead by 2, 29-27, at the under 4 media timeout.
Alabama will have the ball after the timeout. In the final segment, the Cats extend their lead to a game high 5 points, 39-34 at the half.
The largest lead of the first half was 5 points by the Cats and 3 points by Alabama. There were 4 ties and 11 lead changes.
The Cats scored 39 points on 36 possessions, 1.083 points per possession, and ALABAMA managed their 34 points on 35 possessions, 0.971 ppp. The Cats made 45.2% (14-31) of their first half shots, including 2-5 from outside the arc. ALABAMA managed to make 42.9% (12-28) of their first half shots, including 4-15 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 7 turnovers in the first half while ALABAMA committed 6 turnovers.
The Cats made 9-10 from the line (90.0%) and ALABAMA made 6-10 from the line (60.0%).
On the Boards, the Cats won the rebounding battle 22-14, and the Cats won on the offensive glass 7-4. Kentucky won the second chance points 6-0. The Cats secured 41.2% of their misses and allowed ALABAMA to grab 21.1% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens the second half and a pick and roll to Nick Richards who draws a foul and makes a pair of free throws to give the Cats their biggest lead, 7 points. But Alabama responds with a basket and a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 2 points, 41-39. The Cats ease back on top by 4, 45-41, and Alabama takes a timeout with 16:10 remaining in the game. Alabama gets to the line, and after missing both shots, Alabama gets the offensive rebound and drains a 3 pointer to cut the lead to 1 point. 'Bama then moves into the lead following a Kentucky missed shot, 48-47. At the under 12 media timeout, with 10:52 on the clock, the score is tied, 52-52, and Kevin Knox will be at the line for a pair of free throws after the break. In a short third segment, Alabama moves back into a 1 point lead on a second chance 3 point play, 59-58, but a second chance basket by Kevin Knox gives the Cats a 1 point lead at the under 8 media timeout with 7:45 left in the game. The Cats will have the ball after this timeout.
After the timeout, Jarred Vanderbilt found PJ Washington on the post, and PJ Washington got a 3 point play to give the Cats a 4 point lead. Following a 'Bama turnover, the Cats go up by 6 with their 4 th 3 pointer of the game by Quade Green, 67-61, with 6:20 remaining. Alabama trims the lead to 2 points and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 5:12 on the clock.
At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats are clinging to a 3 point lead, 69-66, and Alabama will have a pair of free throws after the break with a chance to cut the lead to either 1 or 2 points. After making 1 of the 2 attempts, the Cats extend their lead to 4 points on an assist by Quade Green to Jarred Vanderbilt for a dunk. Alabama takes a timeout with 3:03 left in the game.
The Cats' Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forces an Alabama turnover, and PJ Washington gets fouled on a shot attempt. He missed the first and made the second. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forces another 'Bama turnover, and Jarred Vanderbilt gets a layup. After an Alabama basket, Jarred Vanderbilt gets another basket. After an Alabama missed 3 pointer, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gets fouled and makes a pair of free throws.
Cats win 81-71.
UK scored its 81 points on 71 possessions (1.141 ppp) for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 71 points on 69 possessions (1.029 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 44-27, and the Cats controlled the offensive glass 20-9. Kentucky used its 20 second chance possessions to score 20 second chance points, and ALABAMA used its 9 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.870 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 1.222 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.859 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 20 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 52.6% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 27.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 21-28 (75.0%) from the free throw line in this game. ALABAMA made 13-21 [61.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-64 overall [43.8%] and 4-11 from long range [36.4%]. For Alabama, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 20-31 [64.5%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 6-24 [25.0%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions. The Cats forced 13 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 5.3 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Wednesday night at Arkansas for the 28 th game of the season and the 15 th SEC game of 2018
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks