Kentucky’s win streak came to a crashing end Tuesday night in Rupp Arena when first-place Alabama embarrassed the Cats by 20 points, 85-65, in Coach Cal’s largest home loss to date and the program’s largest home loss since 1988. Billed as the battle between the SEC’s two unbeaten teams, the game proved to be a one-sided affair from the beginning as Alabama’s offense scored at a rate that would make its football team proud.
Dejected, Calipari said after the game, “Not one of our players played well. I obviously didn’t coach well… We got beat every which way.”
These are some of those ways…
1. Alabama shot the lights out.
With an average of 30 tries per game this season, Nate Oats’ Alabama lives and dies by the 3-ball. The scouting report was pretty simple—force the Tide to do something inside the arc—but Oats’ offense got its 30 looks from outside, and almost half of them (14 of 30) went in.
It helped that many of the attempts went uncontested thanks to lackadaisical defense Calipari called out in his postgame comments. “We were late to everything, we were backing away from players,” Cal said of his players’ closeouts and defensive effort overall, suggesting they were afraid to get beat off the dribble so they allowed 3s instead.
2. Alabama got easy penetration went it got bored making 3s.
When Alabama wasn’t taking advantage of the open target practice UK’s defense allowed, Alabama was able to penetrate the rim with ease. Kentucky needed to force tough 2-point shots to get Alabama away from what it likes to do, but Alabama was able to space Kentucky out and choose its own adventure: find the open 3-pointer or take it to the basket. A weakness all season, UK’s perimeter defenders showed an inability to stay in front of anyone trying to drive.
3. John Petty was great.
The defense was bad but Alabama still had to make the plays to capitalize on opportunities, and ninth-year senior John Petty did a lot of the playmaking for the Crimson Tide. It was far and away Petty’s best game against the school he almost picked out of high school as he scored 23 points with four made 3-pointers and was spotted jawing toward Coach Cal after sinking one in front of the UK bench.
Sometimes you just have to nod in respect when an opponent goes off, and in this case we nod to Petty, who I assume will be back again next year and the year after that on into eternity.
4. Kentucky’s offense is severely limited and outdated.
While Alabama’s offense had the freedom to do as it pleased, Kentucky’s offense couldn’t do much of anything. Down double digits to a team scoring 3 at a time and not slowing down, Calipari still fed the paint in the second half like it’s 2010, despite UK’s clear lack of players able to score in the paint. It was a questionable strategy to say the least, but it’s also what we’ve come to expect from UK’s offense. The archaic style of play has become a common complaint from fans, and it looked particularly bad against Alabama’s modern brand of basketball that ran Kentucky off its own floor.
Modern Offense vs Old Offense
This game is about the clearest example of it I have seen
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 13, 2021
5. Kentucky couldn’t make anything.
The Cats shot 34.4% from the field, 22.2% from outside and 79.2% from the line—horrible numbers for a team trying to prove it turned a corner and can make a run for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Want a really ugly stat comparison? Alabama shot better on 3-pointers (14-30, 46.7%) than Kentucky did on layups (8-18, 44.4%). So, Kentucky did worse inside than Alabama did shooting for more points from 20 feet farther back. Yikes.
6. UK’s four top scorers from the Florida win didn’t produce.
BJ Boston, Keion Brooks, Davion Mintz and Olivier Sarr, the four best scorers in Saturday’s 18-point win in Gainesville, were a combined 9-of-33 from the field, and only Brooks reached double figures with his 10 points, although he got off to a very rough start.
As for Boston, it was more of the same, unfortunately. Through 11 games he has now taken the most shots on the team (128) by almost 40 attempts, and his 35.9% FG percentage is the worst on the team.
7. Also bad: Kentucky’s assist-to-turnover ratio.
Part of Kentucky’s offensive struggles were because the team isn’t good at moving the ball around, made very clear by only seven assists in the loss, not quite half of Alabama’s 15 assists in the Tide’s scoring barrage. Adding to the offense’s struggles, Kentucky turned the ball over 19 times to Alabama’s 11.
The Cats needed to make extra passes and protect the ball, but did neither.
8. Where was Lance Ware?
Unless he is in a secret doghouse, there is no reason for Lance Ware to go home with zero minutes in a game Kentucky could’ve used his physicality. Some might say Ware has been Kentucky’s most physical player this season, yet he was never given a chance against Bama’s banged up interior.
After the game, Coach Cal did his usual Cal way of explaining things, a growing frustration among everyone listening. He explained Ware’s 40 minutes on the bench as, “If I could do it all over again I’d put him in there.”
9. The loss is especially bad because Alabama didn’t have two of its best players.
Adding to the ugliness from the loss is knowing Alabama wasn’t at full strength and still blew Kentucky away. The Tide didn’t have its 13 points per game from former McDonald’s All-American and second-leading scorer Jahvon Quinerly, who is out with an undisclosed medical condition, and then senior leader Herb Jones and his 13 points per game went down early in the first half with a finger injury and never returned. Two of Bama’s best players and top scorers out, yet Kentucky still gave up 85 points on its own floor in a 20-point loss.
10. Kentucky is deep in must-win territory.
Looking ahead, Kentucky goes on the road to Auburn and then to Georgia before coming back home to host LSU in two Saturdays. With a 4-7 record and only one Quad 1 win on the tournament resume to date, the Cats are reaching desperation mode for a March Madness invite and it’s only mid-January. Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss did nothing for the confidence meter, so we’ll see what team shows up at Auburn this coming Saturday afternoon. It’s too early in SEC play to drop another one. Gotta win.
But first we sleep.