GAME NOTES: The 25th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will try to halt their slide on Tuesday night when they welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide to Rupp Arena in SEC action.
Alabama has won two of its last three games, most recently downing Auburn on Saturday, 73-57, but its season as a whole has not been very kind, as it sits at just 12-17 overall and 6-9 in the SEC. To make matter worse in this matchup, the Tide have yet to win on the road in 10 tries.
Kentucky has lost two consecutive games for the first time all season, dropping a 71-67 overtime decision versus Arkansas last Thursday before suffering an embarrassing 72-67 loss at South Carolina on Saturday to slide to 21-8 overall and 11-5 in the SEC. Although the Wildcats have picked a terrible time of the season to go cold, things are looking up for this bout considering their stellar 15-2 record at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats lead the all-time series with the Tide, 102-37, which includes wins in seven of the past nine meetings.
The Tide enjoyed one of their most well-rounded victories of the season over the weekend, as they shot 49 percent from the field (including 10-of-18 from 3-point range) while holding Auburn to a mere 27.5 percent shooting on their way to the 16-point triumph. The catalyst was Levi Randolph, who netted 24 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc to go with nine rebounds. Trevor Releford was stellar across the board with 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, while Retin Obasohan netted 13 off the bench.
Alabama's inconsistencies this season have been largely due to its lackluster offensive attack, as it shoots 44.5 percent from the field for 68.4 ppg, which has all but ruined an impressive effort on the defensive end of the court (67.9 ppg). One constant in the Tide lineup has been Trevor Releford, who boasts great percentages from the field (.504), 3-point range (.399) and the free-throw line (.869) for 18.8 ppg to go with 3.1 apg and 2.3 spg. Obasohan (9.7 ppg, 1.9 spg) and Randolph (9.6 ppg) have also been solid.
The Wildcats coughed up a lead late in the first half against South Carolina and fell behind by as many as 16, and while they battled back to make it just a one-point game in the final minute following a three-point play by Julius Randle, they could not complete the comeback. They shot a miserable 26.9 percent from the field on the evening, and even an active night at the free- throw line (33-of-42) couldn't save them. Aaron Harrison made up for a 4-of-12 field goal shooting performance with an 11-of-12 showing at the line for 21 points. James Young added 19 points, and Julius Randle had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds despite his 1-of-7 performance from the floor.
Kentucky's recent slide aside, it has performed very well on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field for 77.4 ppg, while allowing 67.2 ppg on just 39.7 percent shooting, and its rebounding margin (+10.2) ranks second in the nation. The squad isn't without weakness, however, as its 3-point percentage (.322) and free-throw percentage (.685) are less than stellar. Randle has established himself as one of the nation's premiere power forwards during his freshman season with 15.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg. Fellow first-year players Young (14.6 ppg), Aaron Harrison (13.8 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (11.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) have also played well, as has sophomore forward Willie Cauley-Stein (7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 1.1 spg).
Kentucky's status as one of the nation's elite teams is in serious jeopardy with the postseason right around the corner, but it should have no problem getting back on the winning track against an Alabama squad that struggles so much on the road.
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