ST. LOUIS — By the time Alabama found the energy it needed in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal game against Kentucky, it was too late. The Wildcats were on fire — a fully-involved, five-alarm special — and the Crimson Tide couldn’t drench the raging inferno of record-setting second-half shooting in an 86-63 UK win that ended the St. Louis run for UA.
Kentucky missed a total of three shots in the entire second half, making eight of 10 two-point attempts and eight of nine 3-pointers. Wenyen Gabriel, a reserve forward averaging just a shade over six points per game, made all seven of his 3-point attempts, setting a new SEC Tournament record for 3-point accuracy.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to take your hats off to the other team,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached against a guy that’s gone 7-for-7 from the 3-point line at any time, on any level.
“. But we were scrambling. We cut the lead down to about nine or ten points at one point. They kept us on our heels by making threes. And sometimes we were there in their faces, and sometimes we weren’t. But I like the way offensively we got going a little bit in the second half.”
The first half was a struggle for the Crimson Tide, which shot just 30 percent and made just seven shots, allowing UK to build a double-digit lead, 29-19.
“We just didn’t have much offense,” Johnson said. “Our energy wasn’t at a high level of where we needed it to be in the first half to compete in this game.”
Alabama scored 44 points of its own in the second half, but that total paled in light of the Kentucky onslaught.
Collin Sexton led Alabama with 21 points, setting a new school record for SEC Tournament scoring with 79 points in the Crimson Tide’s three games. Freshman John Petty seemed to break out of a personal shooting slump, hitting five 3-pointers en route to an 18-point game, his best since January 17.
UA (19-15) played without its No. 2 scorer, Donta Hall, who was in the concussion protocol after a hard fall against Auburn on Friday.
“We think that he’s going to be okay, but he’s resting, Johnson said. “He spent some time in the locker room. Then he came out at the end and tried to fire the guys up a little bit on the bench. Fortunately, he’s going to be fine. He’s responded well, but he’s day-to-day right now.”
Johnson added that he was “very optimistic” that Hall could play next week.
Kentucky (23-10) now has 11 consecutive elimination wins over Alabama in SEC Tournament play, a streak that stretches back to 1982.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.