Kentucky learned just how dangerous Alabama’s style of play is under Nate Oats is a few weeks ago in Rupp Arena. The Crimson Tide, now ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll, hit 14 threes en route to an 85-65 win over the Cats, and a few games later, made 23 vs. LSU, an SEC record. As you might expect, slowing that three-point barrage down is priority number one for Kentucky heading into tomorrow night’s rematch in Tuscaloosa.
“I think the biggest thing is contesting them,” assistant coach Bruiser Flint said today. “They’re going to make tough threes because that’s what they do. We’re not going to stop them from shooting threes. They’re going to try to get 30-40 three-point shots off a game, so our biggest thing is you’ve got to do a better job of contesting them and we can’t turn the ball over to them so now they get unguarded threes in transition because we’re turning the ball over. That’s when they’re at their best, when they’re getting it up and down and shooting the three-ball.”
Alabama is tied for fourth in the country in threes made, with 179 so far this season. They’re averaging 11.2 threes per game, 13.3 in SEC play, and, as Flint said, don’t hesitate to let them fly, even in transition. Earlier this month, the Crimson Tide had 28 points off 19 Kentucky turnovers, a number Flint said has to come down.
“One, they played with a lot more toughness than we played with,” Flint said of Alabama. “The other thing about the game is, and it’s been our Achilles’ Heel all year, points off turnovers. I want to say they had 28 points off turnovers. When we have that high of a number, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing; they’re even more dangerous because they’re probably the best offensive team in the league. So, if you give it to them off turnovers, they’re going to convert them.”
Oats’ offense has been the talk of college basketball in recent weeks, with the shot chart vs. LSU — all threes and points in the paint — going viral. According to KenPom, 41.1% of Alabama’s points come from threes, which ranks No. 11 in the country and is No. 1 among Power 5 teams.
“You’ve gotta see their warm-ups,” Flint said. “They barely shoot layups in their warm-up lines so the three-ball is what they do. That’s what they do. They want to shoot a lot of them. They’ve shot it extremely well. That’s one reason why they’ve gotten away from a lot of teams. When they come down and the second they start knocking them down, you can’t keep pace and it’s a tough struggle. We’ve got to do a better job of chasing them off the three-point line but I bet you that’s every team they play talks about that so we’ve got to do a better job of doing that and again, it comes back to the whole turnover thing. If you’re not giving them the ball, you’re making them play in front of you, you’ve got a better chance of playing defense.”
So, ball security, physical play, and praying Alabama is cold for once. Got it.