Alabama Crimson Tide rocked in Rupp by tenacious Wildcats

The Alabama Crimson Tide got a painful wakeup call in Rupp Arena on Saturday, losing to the Kentucky Wildcats, 117-95.
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide was surprised by Kentucky in Lexington. Bama knew the Cats were one of college basketball's best offensive teams. But the rap against the Wildcats was their too-often poor defensive play. On Saturday, the Wildcats were better than advertised on offense and also darn tough on defense.

At the half, the Crimson Tide trailed 58-42. Things got worse in the second half. Alabama finished the game with plenty of points to win most games, 95 points to be exact. But the Cats left the court at Rupp with 117 points. The Cats shot 54% from outside the arc and took seven more threes than the Crimson Tide. The Kentucky duo of Antonio Reeves and Justin Edwards were a combined 6-for-7 on treys.

The most glaring stat comparison came from points off turnovers. The Crimson Tide committed just six more turnovers than the Cats (16-10), but the points off turnovers favored Kentucky, 29-10.

Alabama loves to play fast, but the aggressive Kentucky defense hurried the Crimson Tide into a frenetic pace that too often failed to produce a good shot.

On Saturday, Kentucky was not the team that lost three straight at Rupp in late January and early February. It was also not the team that frittered away a big lead on Wednesday in Baton Rouge and lost 75-74. The loss to the Bengal Tigers jump-started the Cats to a season-best level of intensity on Saturday.

Alabama should have seen it coming from the recent Kentucky wins over Ole Miss in Rupp and Auburn in Auburn. The Rebels scored just 63 points, and worse, Auburn managed only 59 points on their home court.

Nate Oats did not hold back after the game saying,

"We've got to have to have some guys make decisions as to whether we want to be a novelty offensive team, and whether we actually want to be able to win championships."

Nate Oats

There are many worse defensive teams than Alabama, at least in terms of Defensive Efficiency as measured by Ken Pomeroy. Alabama went into the Kentucky game at No. 70. Kentucky went into the contest even lower at No. 81. Against Alabama, Kentucky was the far better defensive team. The Crimson Tide did not come close to championship-quality defense.

Other choice comments by Nate Oats were the Tide's "effort stunk" and "everybody knows we don't really guard at this point." Oats is to be commended for not deflecting any blame saying,

"Cal had his guys ready to go, I didn't. They looked great. We looked awful."

Nate Oats

One bad loss does not make a season. Alabama can regroup and still win the SEC regular season. Winning the next four games would give the Tide a championship and the SEC Tournament No. 1 seed. But Nate Oats' team cannot look awful again.