NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As usual, the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats blocked Alabama’s progress in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. This year, they did it figuratively as well as literally.
The Wildcats blocked 11 shots — nine in the first half — closing down Alabama’s inside offense and cruised to a convincing 73-55 victory that put UK into Saturday’s tournament semifinals.
“I don’t know that I have ever seen a team block nine shots in a half,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “Our guys fought. They just did a great job of disrupting us all night long.”
Alabama had a brief 6-4 lead but UK’s P.J. Washington hit a 3, then Tyler Herro added two free throws to start Kentucky on a 17-2 run that Nick Richards capped with a dunk and a pair of free throws midway through the half, putting UK up 26-11.
The Crimson Tide battled back, cutting the deficit to 33-27 on a 3-pointer by Dazon Ingram with 2:24 left, but did not get any closer. The Wildcats led 39-29 at halftime and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half.
Tevin Mack, who had 21 points in Alabama’s Thursday night win against Ole Miss did not score. Alex Reese, a sophomore who came in averaging just 5.5 points a game, and he played only seven minutes on Thursday, led Alabama with 15 points. Donta Hall added 14 points, all in the second half.
Herro led all scorers with 20 points while Immanuel Quickly added 12 for the Wildcats, now 27-5.
“I thought we really guarded them,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “We rebounded. The last time we played them (an Alabama win in January), they out-rebounded us by 10 rebounds. This game we out-rebounded them by 10 rebounds. I still think we missed a bunch of shots but we were physical.”
Said Johnson, “Nothing they did really surprised us. We just didn’t have that extra bounce tonight.”
Hall finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while scoring his 1,000th-career point. In doing so, he became just the fifth Alabama player in program history to record more than 1,000 points (1,008), 800 rebounds (838) and 200 blocks (226) for his career.
Alabama (18-15) will learn its postseason destination — likely in the NIT — on Sunday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.