After a couple early morning fire alarms interrupted their slumber, Kentucky came out the gates groggy against the Crimson Tide, but finished strong to win 67-58.
Offensively, the team struggled to get much of anything going in the first half, scoring just 29 points at the break. Defensively, however, they shined.
Alabama managed to score just 20 points by halftime, the lowest total by any UK opponent this season. Even with a little consistency in the second half for the Tide, the Wildcats managed to have an extremely positive afternoon on defense. Forced turnovers and effort will always make Coach Cal happy.
On the block, Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel managed to swat five shots away, and the Alabama bigs failed to get much of anything going.
In the second half, Kentucky was able to get the offense flowing a little more with the help of some key pieces off the bench. Dominique Hawkins provided a major spark, and Willis, Humphries, and Mulder managed to show good things in limited playing time, as well.
Bam fouled out with six minutes remaining in the game, leaving a massive hole down low in the home stretch. Humphries picked up his fourth foul just a minute later, leaving just Willis and Gabriel as the big men in the home stretch.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats responded back with some big buckets and defensive stands, holding the Tide away in the final few possessions and converting on the offensive end. Willis’ three-point dagger to spread the lead to nine sealed the deal.
Monk led the way with 17 points on 6-14 shooting. Adebayo and Briscoe also managed to finish in double figures for the Wildcats.
Let’s get to our big topics of the game:
Hamidou Diallo suited up… But he has since Auburn.
Yesterday, Diallo sent out this cryptic tweet, causing fans throughout the bluegrass to wonder whether or not Calipari was planning on playing the 5-star guard against the Tide:
Who Would've Said This Would Happen Freshmen Year ðŸ¤”? pic.twitter.com/2UCBpipmkB
— Hamidou diallo (@Diallo1Hamidou) February 10, 2017
Before the game, Diallo warmed up in his uniform, only sparking more controversy to his tweet sent out the day before. For a brief period of time, this was thought to be the first time he had done that this season, making most believe there was a real shot he would be getting playing time this afternoon.
UK later confirmed the Queens native had been wearing his uniform underneath his warmups since the Auburn game, and there was no significance of the uniform whatsoever.
As of now, there are no plans for Diallo to play this season.
Malik Monk hit a three in the opening minutes of the game to give Kentucky their 1000th consecutive game with a made three-point attempt. In every game since 1988, the Wildcats have knocked down a long-range jumper, making it the longest streak in America… until tonight if UNLV knocks down a trey against San Jose State to give then 1000 consecutive games as well.
Is that not just insane?
Briscoe started as Brick-scoe, finished a warrior
In the first half, Briscoe finished with 2 points on 1-4 from the field and 0-4 from the free throw line, providing absolutely nothing on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite a couple silly turnovers in the second half, Briscoe finished the game with several clutch buckets when the Wildcats needed them the most.
With four minutes remaining, Briscoe was fouled on a massive layup and converted on the free throw to extend the lead. On the following possession, the veteran guard knocked down a jumper from the elbow. After a few traded baskets between both teams in the final minutes, Briscoe was fouled on a converted layup attempt to all but seal the deal for the Kentucky victory.
He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
That being said, for a guy that couldn’t miss anything within three feet of the basket his first year at UK, it’s tough seeing so many missed layups out of the sophomore. Hopefully we can see a turnaround in tournament season.
Where was De’Aaron Fox?
In the first half, a pair of costly fouls held Fox to zero points, rebounds, and assists at the break.
He was able to put the final touches on the victory with a breakaway slam off of an Alabama turnover, but finishing with seven points on just 3-12 shooting is extremely out of the ordinary for a guy that regularly fills up the stat sheet.
Dominque Hawkins balled out
Someone on the Live Blog said it best, if Hawkins had Malik Monk’s body, he would be on Anthony Davis-level in terms of legendary status at Kentucky.
Defensively, Hawkins is an absolute pest, and has proven that since he was a freshman at UK back in 2014. Diving for loose balls, fighting for rebounds, and an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio, the senior out of Madison Central just does it all, and it’s easy to see why Calipari has been giving him so many minutes as of late.
He might not always light up the scoreboard, but he does just about everything else to contribute to the team.
Kentucky got their first road win since Mississippi State
In what may be the most important statistic of the day, UK managed to get back in the win column after two consecutive losses on the road in SEC play.
The Wildcats had an 18-point lead at one point, but Alabama fought back to cut it to six late in the second half. When momentum seemed to be shifting the Tide’s way, UK hit a couple big shots and sealed the deal on their 20th win of the season.
After a string of ugly games for the Cats, I’ll take a nine-point victory on the road all day, every day.
UK will look to avenge their loss to Tennessee back in January, as the Volunteers will head to Rupp Arena on Valentine’s Day at 7:00 p.m. ET.
We’ll have all the coverage you need here on KSR in the meantime.