College Hoops Tuesday Recap: Alabama Hangs On to Beat Kentucky

January 19th, 2011
Up by as many as 18 points in the second half, Anthony Grant's Alabama Crimson Tide looked to be in good shape after an Andrew Steele gave them a 59-43 lead with 11:31 remaining at Coleman Coliseum. But from that point the Crimson Tide struggled mightily in the face of mounting Kentucky defensive pressure as John Calipari's team finally answered his halftime challenge to "man up". Kentucky held Alabama without a field goal for more than eight minutes before a JaMychal Green tip-in made the score 64-61 with 3:04 remaining. From there Alabama made four of six free throws while the Wildcats turned the ball over on consecutive possessions in what goes down as a 68-66 victory. Green led all scorers with 18 points (and 11 rebounds) while Terrence Jones led four Wildcats in double figures with 17 off the bench.

"You have to give Alabama credit," remarked Coach Calipari. "They came out of the gate, they stretched the game out, and they made the shots they had to make. They were muscling us around the goal and they hung on. They made the free throws they had to make down the stretch."

Similar to North Carolina in their loss at Georgia Tech on Sunday toughness was an issue for the young Wildcats as they fell even further behind after the half. But Brandon Knight and company executed better on offense, made easier by 16 points off of 11 Alabama turnovers. After doing just about everything right in building an impressive lead the Crimson Tide sputtered offensively, failing to recognize mismatches as Kentucky would switch screens on occasion and end up with a guard defending a big man. And as good of a player as JaMychal Green is there's no excuse for him barely touching the basketball offensively as the visitors made their charge. Tony Mitchell added 15 and seven boards for Alabama, who moves to 10-0 at home this season, having won 11 straight at Coleman Coliseum dating back to last year.

Does this win mean that Alabama is a legitimate threat in the SEC West? Yes but more so because no one's really asserted themselves thus far, making that division all the more unpredictable. A win over Kentucky shouldn't automatically erase the fact that cost the Tide also boast losses to the likes of Saint Peter's and Iowa, and offensively there's still work to be done in regards to valuing the basketball and finding the right shots within their system. As for Kentucky this was simply a reminder that despite their talent they can't just show up and expect to win. Once the Wildcats become consistent in their effort they'll take care of business on the road, where they drop to 0-2 in SEC play. The sense of urgency eventually showed up in Tuscaloosa, but the timing proved to be too late for Coach Calipari's squad.

"We didn't come out with the intensity that we needed to and they came out fighting, ready to play, going after loose balls, coming up with 50-50 balls," said Knight. "They were able to get a lead and came out with more intensity than we did. They wanted it more than we did." (quotes courtesy of Alabama Athletics)

Other Notable Happenings

1. Last-second shot gives Tennessee the win in Athens.
Last night's game between Tennessee and Georgia was tight throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven at any point in the game. So it was fitting that it took an effort play from Brian Williams to get the Volunteers a second consecutive victory. Williams' offensive rebound and shot while falling away from the hoop went in as time expired, giving the Vols a 59-57 victory in somewhat controversial fashion. Could a foul for being over the back been called? Depending on which fan base you ask the answer will vary, but all that matters on Thursday morning is that Tennessee is 2-2 in SEC play with a trip to Connecticut on the horizon. Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson scored 15 points apiece for the Vols while Williams added 10 off the bench to make up for a scoreless night from Cameron Tatum, and the UT reserves outscored Georgia's 20-10. Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson Jr. led the Bulldogs with 14 points apiece in defeat. Can the Vols win at Connecticut on Saturday? Given wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh they most certainly can, but the bigger question will be whether or not they can play with consistent fire the remainder of the season. If they can this is a talented squad that will be tough to handle, but that's been said all season long.

2. Jereme Richmond returns and helps lead Illinois to a much-needed win over Michigan State.
Few people knew what was going on with Jereme Richmond, with a leave of absence sparking rumors of the freshman being unhappy and looking to transfer. Whatever the issue was either they've been solved or the versatile forward does a good job of focusing on the task at hand, scoring 14 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists in the Illini's 71-62 win over Michigan State. Brandon Paul led the way with 20 points, combining with Richmond to give Illinois 34 points off the bench. After road losses to Penn State and Wisconsin Bruce Weber's team looked much better offensively, assisting on 17 of their 25 field goals (Demetri McCamey had 11 assists) and turning the ball over just nine times. Defensively they limited the Spartans to 37.5% shooting, including 7-for-26 from three-point range. Next up for Illinois is Ohio State in Champaign, and they've got the talent to knock off the Buckeyes. How they do in defending Jared Sullinger will depend on all of their frontcourt players, not just Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. But they needed Tuesday's win to remain in the Big Ten title discussion, and thanks to Paul and Richmond they were able to get the job done.

3. Nebraska hands Colorado their first Big 12 loss and moves to 14-4 on the year.
Colorado's trip to Nebraska was a game to watch for the simple fact that the Buffaloes were off to their best start in the Big 12 since the inaugural season of the conference. But in a matchup of programs leaving the league this summer another fact emerged: Doc Sadler's team is pretty good. The Huskers followed up a tough, hard-fought loss at #2 Kansas with a 79-67 victory with Toney McCray leading four players in double figures with 18 points. Compare that to the scoring distribution of Colorado who had just two players reach double figures: Alec Burks (22) and Levi Knutson (17). Cory Higgins made just three of eight field goals and finished with eight points, and Colorado's dependence on the perimeter shot resulted in just nine free throw attempts. Nebraska attempted twice as many free throws and shot 56.3% from the field, and in Lance Jeter they've got a point guard who fits the role in regards to distribution while taking advantage of a powerful frame. Nebraska saw Christian Stanhardinger leave the program, and they've gone to a starting lineup that features four guards. Thanks to the lessons learned early in the season at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Coach Sadler's team has gotten progressively better, and while it may be early to project an NCAA berth Nebraska merits some consideration right now.

Top Three Games

1. Tennessee 59, Georgia 57

2. Alabama 68, (12) Kentucky 66

3. (23) Georgetown 80, Seton Hall 75 Austin Freeman's 28 led the way for the Hoyas, who survived a furious Pirate rally to pick up their second consecutive conference win. Jeff Robinson led the Pirates with 21 points.

Three Notable Performances

1. G Austin Freeman (Georgetown) 28 points (10-13 FG), five rebounds and three assists in the Hoyas' win at Seton Hall.

2. Forwards Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler (Marquette) Combined for 39 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists (six for Crowder) in the Golden Eagles' 94-64 over DePaul.

3. G Cade Davis (Oklahoma) 25 points and seven rebounds in the Sooners' 83-74 win over Texas Tech, ending OU's 12-game Big 12 losing streak.