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Basketball is a tournament sport, and there is no better time for basketball fans than tournament time. That means March, and it is March. The first two days of the SEC Tournament had six games, and the “favorite” team lost three times. Alabama was a beneficiary of one of these so called upsets on Thursday and advanced to today's quarterfinal to face their cross state arch rivals, Auburn. Georgia was a beneficiary of one of these so called upsets on Thursday and advanced to today's quarterfinals to face Kentucky.
Alabama trailed the regular season co-champion Auburn Tigers by 10 points at halftime of their game, but in the second half, the Crimson Tide put on a show for the SEC faithful in St. Louis earlier this afternoon. Auburn could not score a basket in the second half until their 10 point halftime lead (41-31) transformed into a 42-55 deficit. Alabama outscored Auburn in that run 34-1. In the second game of the afternoon session of today's quarterfinals, Kentucky faced Georgia. After Georgia eased into a 23-22 lead on 2 for 3 from the free throw line, the Cats scored the last 8 points of the first half to lead by 7 at the half, 30-23. The Cats opened the second half with a 3 pointer to move into a double digit lead for the first time, and Georgia would get no closer for the rest of the game except of a brief moment late in the game when the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to only 9 points for a few seconds. The Cats won by 13, 60-49.
The Tide move on to the SEC Tournament Semifinal round for the second consecutive year, and they will face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Cats and the Crimson Tide played once this season, 3 weeks ago at Rupp Arena with the Cats using a 10 point win (81-71) as their launching pad for a huge 4 game winning streak that seemed to turn an important corner for these Wildcats. However, the Crimson Tide left Lexington not just with a loss, but the first loss in a season ending 5 game losing streak. Yes, the Tide had its own way in the second half against Auburn today, but they were very fortunate to get a second round 1 point win over Texas A&M on Thursday, played a dismal first half today against Auburn, and both of these post season performances occur on the heels of that five game losing streak.
Alabama's 19-14 record has produced an ANE of 0..151 ppp (#46) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1084 ppp (#12). The Cats' 22-10 record has produced an ANE of 0.191 ppp (#26) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1093 ppp (#11). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Kentucky by 4 points, 74-70, in a game played at a pace of 74 possessions. Pomeroy has Kentucky favored by 3, 72-69 with a pace of 69 possessions. Vegas opened today with Kentucky a 4 point favorite.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
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Jarred Vanderbilt sitting with an ankle injury. Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, and Hamidou Diallo against Alabama. PJ Washington, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Quade Green represent the experienced bench tonight.
The Cats control the opening tip and fail to score on their first 3 possessions before PJ Washington gets a layup off the half court offense. Alabama moves into a 3-2 lead with a 3 pointer, and the teams trade baskets to the under 16 media timeout with Alabama leading by 1 point, 7-6. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have a pair of free throws after the break. In the second segment, Alabama eased into a 2 point lead, 10-8 after making 1 of 2 free throw attempts, and a 3 pointer by Hamidou Diallo gave the Cats the 1 point lead at the under 12 media timeout, 11-10, and the Cats have the ball.
The third segment starts with turnovers, 2 by the Cats and 2 by the Crimson Tide. The game has started with 5 UK turnovers in 15 possessions and 8 turnovers for the Crimson Tide first 17 possessions. Yet, the score is remains with the Cats clinging to a 1 point lead, 15-14 with 8:34 remaining. Just prior to the under 8 media timeout, Wenyen Gabriel makes the second 3 pointer for the Cats to give them their largest lead of the game, 4 points, 18-14, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:22 remaining, and Alabama in possession.
In the fourth segment, the Cats move to a 4 point lead for the second time at 20-16 before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hits a 3 pointer to extend the Cats' lead to 7 points, 23-16. Alabama takes a timeout with 4:01 remaining in the first half.
In the final segment, the Cats move out to their largest lead of the game, 10 points, 29-19 at the half. After trimming the UK lead to 2 points, 18-16, the Crimson Tide finished the half being outscored 11-3 by the Cats.
The largest lead of the first half was 10 points for the Cats and 2 points for Alabama. There were 0 ties and 7 lead changes.
The Cats scored 29 points on 31 possessions, 0.936 points per possession, and ALABAMA managed their 19 points on 30 possessions, 0.633 ppp. The Cats made 47.8% (11-23) of their first half shots, including 4-9 from outside the arc. ALABAMA managed to make 30.4% (7-23) of their first half shots, including 2-8 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 6 turnovers in the first half while ALABAMA committed 8 turnovers.
The Cats made 3-7 from the line (42.9%) and ALABAMA made 3-5 from the line (60.0%).
On the Boards, the Crimson Tide won the rebounding battle 18-15, and the Crimson Tide controlled the offensive glass 4-1. Alabama won the second chance points 2-0. The Cats secured 6.7% of their misses and allowed ALABAMA to grab 22.2% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens the second half and Sacha Killeya-Jones turns the ball over. However, Sacha Killeya-Jones redeemed himself at the defensive end with a blocked shot. Hamidou Diallo gets to the free throw line where he extends the lead to 12. Sacha Killeya-Jones blocks another shot, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes a basket to give the Cats a 14 point lead. After the teams trade scores, Wenyen Gabriel makes his third 3 pointer of the game, and the team's 5 th to extend the UK lead to 17 points, 40-23. Alabama takes a timeout with 16:26 remaining in the game. After the timeout, Alabama trims 1 point from the lead at the free throw line, and following a UK turnover, Alabama will have the ball after the under 16 media timeout with the Cats on top by 16, 40-24. The Cats moved out to a game high 19 point lead, 45-26, but Alabama began to whittle away at the lead on the strength of a pair of 3 pointers, trimming the lead to 13, 50-37. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 11:36 left in the game due to the defensive lapses that allowed the open three point shots. The Cats respond to Coach Calipari urgings during the timeout, and outscore the Crimson Tide 9-4 to take an 18 point lead, 59-41 to the under 8 media timeout.
In the 4 th segment, Alabama makes its run at the Cats with back to back 3 pointers, and a bucket that trims the lead to only 11 points, 61-50, with about 6:39 left in the game. Alabama managed to trim the lead to 9 points but the Cats withstood the run and lead by 13, 71-58, at the under 4 media timeout, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander set for a pair of free throws after this final media timeout of the game with 3:47 left on the clock.
Alabama ran out of gas over the last 5 minutes, and the Cats won by 23, 86-63.
UK scored its 86 points on 64 possessions (1.344 ppp) for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 63 points on 64 possessions (0.984 ppp).
Alabama won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 31-26, and Alabama controlled the offensive glass 13-1. Kentucky used its 1 second chance possession to score 0 second chance points, and ALABAMA used its 13 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.781 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 13 second chance possessions. UK had 1.344 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 0.0 ppp on its 1 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 6.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 34.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 20-28 (71.4%) from the free throw line in this game. ALABAMA made 11-15 [73.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 27-42 overall [64.3%] and 12-18 from long range [66.7%]. For Alabama, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 14-34 [41.2%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 8-24 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions. The Cats forced 11 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 5.8 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: The Cats will play next in the SEC Tournament Championship game on Sunday afternoon at about 1 PM against either Tennessee or Arkansas.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks