Alabama Basketball: Keon Ellis career game not enough in Lexington

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

This season every time Alabama Basketball appears to have crossed a threshold, it turns out it hasn’t. That happened again Saturday afternoon in Lexington. A sizzling Crimson Tide led by 13 points in the first half and lost by nine to the Kentucky Wildcats, 90-81.

Alabama’s Keon Ellis was the best player on the court Saturday, but the Cats’ Kellan Grady and Oscar Tshiebwe were not far behind. Ellis scored a career-high 28 points, with five rebounds, four steals, and an assist. Jaden Shackelford had 18 points. Noah Gurley added 10 points. No other Tide player scored more than six.

The Wildcats were missing starters, Ty Ty Washington and Sahvir Wheeler, but some Wildcat luck made up for some of the absence. Kentucky scored three fluke baskets. Two came off unintentional bank shots. The third came after a pass bounced off Grady’s butt, becoming a perfect assist for his three-point shot.

Luck was not the difference though. Nor were the eight more made free throws, off of 10 more Kentucky shots at the foul line. The difference was Kentucky is better than Alabama.

The Crimson Tide shot 43.5%, including 35% from outside the arc. The Cats hit 53.2%, including 64.3% on threes. Rebounds also favored the Wildcats, 39-32.

What most separates the two teams is defense. Kentucky is very good, almost all the time. Alabama is good, but not great, most of the time and awful some of the time.

Whether Alabama basketball fans want to accept it or not, the game was a test of how tournament-ready is the Tide. A short conclusion is not ready enough.

Alabama Basketball, Nate Oats after the game

From Mike Rodak,

"Guys have to figure out how hard they need to play to win on the road.They played the whole game without a point guard and we only turned them over 7 times.Everybody is responsible for their own personal effort. For whatever reason this year, we haven’t been able to get them to give us the effort they need to win big games.Real disappointing loss. We wasted a good shooting night out of Shack and Keon.We didn’t play hard enough."

All Nate Oats said is true. Some Alabama fans would like to add that at least a few times the Crimson Tide did not play smart enough either. The team seems to not get that possessions can be wasted without turnovers.

The Crimson Tide only had nine turnovers in the game. But scoring opportunities were wasted with poor shot selection or points were made easy for the Cats with poor defense or bad fouls. Good teams consistently make opponents pay for such mistakes.

Next. No Playoff expansion until 2026. dark

Next up for the now 17-10, Alabama Crimson Tide is a visit to Nashville, Tuesday night to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.