To say Alabama and Kentucky’s styles contrast would be an understatement. Nate Oats employs an uptempo offense that shoots 30 three-pointers a game. John Calipari’s offense goes through the post. The former made the latter look wholly insufficient Tuesday night as Alabama cruised to a 20-point win at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky knew exactly what they were up against going into this game. Every player has been in a game that felt familiar.
“It’s almost like they were playing an AAU basketball game, like a circuit basketball game,” said UK points guard Devin Askew, “but they made a lot of their shots and it worked for them, so hat’s off to them.”
AAU basketball has a negative connotation to it, so Dontaie Allen put it another way that actually sounds appealing.
“Honestly, it’s really like playing a pick-up game. The way that they play, just get up shots quick, drive to the basket freely. We knew going into this game that it was like a hooper’s game,” said the Pendleton County native.
The hoopers hooped, burying ten first half three-pointers to finish the night 14-of-30 (46%) from long range. Meanwhile, Kentucky made just 4-of-18 (22.2%) from downtown while UK’s four posts combined to score 35 points on 10-for-27 (37%) from the floor. Not only did Alabama’s threes out-score Kentucky’s posts by seven points, they made their shots from long range at a higher clip.
When asked if Calipari’s roster can compete with a team built to shoot a ton of three-pointers, Kentucky’s head coach said shooting more threes is probably not the answer.
“We took 18 threes. How many did we make? So if we took 25 and made six, how would that be? We had a chance to go inside and post the ball and play and now put the game to where it was nine or ten (three-point attempts). We either couldn’t deliver the ball, or when we did we scored in there and did some good stuff,” he said.
“Again, we had a lot of 1-for-4s, 1-for-5s, Dontaie was 2-for-5. Four-for-18 from three means maybe you’re not a great three-point shooting team, but that’s okay. The other side of it is in the first half they made ten. They were either uncontested or we were late getting to somebody. Well they’re going to make them then. That’s how they’re going to play. Our game-plan was we are not blocking the shot but we’re going to contest, so if we get there late, not late getting to them but late jumping — we weren’t even near them.”
Kentucky is not built to play Alabama’s style of basketball. Will a John Calipari team ever will be built to win by making a ton of three-pointers? That is a question that must be answered another day. As for the near future, Kentucky is determined to turn around this season by doing whatever it takes to scratch and claw for a few more wins.
“We’re going to keep getting into the gym and keep working to get better,” said Askew. “This is not where our story ends. We’ve got a long journey. This is still part of the beginning. We’re going to keep moving and keep moving forward after this one.”