The large crowd in attendance at Coleman Coliseum roared with excitement as time expired in Alabama’s 77-75 victory over No. 13 Kentucky in its SEC opener on Saturday afternoon.
In the 150th meeting between the basketball programs, Alabama snapped a 10-game losing streak to UK, winning its first in the coach Avery Johnson era and 38th overall.
“We needed to beat Kentucky. We needed to win the game and we talked about finishing with one more point than Kentucky,” Johnson said. “No excuses. … We are at home. Yes, some of our fans are out in California – but for good reason – we like that, but the ones that showed up, we can’t thank you enough for your support and the noise you made.”
Led by Tevin Mack’s game-high 22 points, five Alabama players scored in the double digits. Mack paced the Crimson Tide in the first half, scoring 20 points and making 6 of 6 attempts from 3-point range.
“I was feeling today. I don’t know, I just came out there aggressive and I wasn’t second guessing myself, nobody was on our team,” Mack said.
Kira Lewis Jr. finished with 12 points and Donta Hall had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Dazon Ingram finished with 11 points and went 6 of 6 from the free throw line and Herb Jones had 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“When we’ve got five guys in double figures we are dangerous. …,” Johnson said. “We feel we have nine guys that can get 10 points for the first time since I have been here.”
In a back-and-forth affair, which included nine ties and 10 lead changes, UK had a 40-38 halftime advantage. Alabama had a 10-point lead with 4:55 remaining, 68-58, but UK chipped away at the deficit.
A dunk by PJ Washington with four seconds left brought the Wildcats within one, 76-75. John Petty made a free throw with three seconds left and a last second 3-point attempt by UK was no good, securing the victory.
“They have no students on the campus. And I think they have one or two people that left here to go off to California, and the place was packed. Think about it. Where did these people come from? But they were here, and that’s what happens,” UK coach John Calipari said. “I told them they were going to play with desperation. They are playing Kentucky. It’s your first home league game and they played with desperation, but I thought after we got down a little bit we didn’t stop. We kept playing and we gave ourselves a chance to win and as a coach that is all you can ask.”
The intensity of the crowd didn’t go unnoticed by Alabama players. Both Hall and Mack mentioned that at times it was so loud they couldn’t even here a screen called, but loved the atmosphere.
“They packed the house and it was amazing,” Hall said. “Their energy also helps us in the game and with us feeling the energy off of them it brings a lot to us on offense and on defense.”
Washington led UK with 15 points and seven rebounds. Keldon Johnson finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Travis Reid, Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans all had 12 points.
Alabama (10-3, 1-0) travels to LSU on Tuesday, Jan. 8 while UK (10-3, 0-1) hosts Texas A&M.
Reach Joey Chandler at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.