No. 16 Kentucky at Alabama
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 9-3, Kentucky 10-2
Radio: 95.3 FM
Riley Norris, Alabama basketball’s fifth-year senior, has seen a lot in his long career. There’s one item he would like to add to the list — a win against Kentucky.
Alabama is on an 11-game losing streak against the Wildcats, dating back to a 59-55 Crimson Tide victory over UK in January 2013.
Norris wasn’t available for last year’s two Alabama-UK games, one in Lexington and the other in the SEC Tournament semifinals in St. Louis, because of hip surgery that ended his 2018 season after nine games. A medical hardship waiver from the NCAA gives Norris another shot although he had to overcome more adversity — corrective surgery for a heart-related condition — to reach this opportunity in Saturday’s nationally-televised game (ESPN, noon) at Coleman Coliseum.
“We’ve never beaten them while I’ve been here,” Norris said. “They’ve had great teams and they will have another great team this year but our fans will be behind us,”
Alabama comes into the SEC opener on a modest three-game winning streak that has been marked by Norris’ return to the rotation. In UA’s most recent win at Stephen F. Austin, Norris scored 14 points, going 4-for-7 on 3-pointers— including two clutch shots to quell a late rally attempt by the Lumberjacks.
“I feel great right now,” Norris said of his return to play. “My strength is back, my conditioning is 100 percent. That was always my goal. I never considered not coming back (after the heart surgery). I love Alabama and I wanted to be a part of the team this year.”
Against a Kentucky team with its usual powerful inside presence, particularly on the offensive glass, Norris — who had six rebounds in 18 minutes at Stephen F. Austin — can help with the Crimson Tide’s team rebounding effort.
“We have improved our rebounding,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said on Thursday. “Last year, our rebounding wasn’t worth talking about. That is true of several players, but Riley brings not only size and length, but he has toughness and tenacity.
“We think, if we can rebound, as fast as we are, that helps us on offense as well because we can get out in transition in two or three steps. But we better be ready for a physical game on Saturday.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.