Alabama at Kentucky: 3 Things To Know as Crimson Tide heads to Rupp Arena

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama’s frontloaded SEC schedule continues as the Crimson Tide (9-3, 4-0 SEC) travels to Lexington to face Kentucky (4-6, 3-0 SEC) at Rupp Arena (8 p.m. CT, ESPN).

It will be the first of two meetings between the teams this month, with the Wildcats coming to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 26. 

Wildcats have reversed poor start

The perennial powerhouse of the SEC, Kentucky got off to its worst start since 1922 by going 1-6 in December. 

Alabama coach Nate Oats was asked about UK’s stumble out of the gate on a Zoom call earlier this month and said the coronavirus pandemic might have played a major part in the slow start. 

Alabama forward Jordan Bruner (2) reverses for two with Florida forward Colin Castleton (12) defending as the Crimson Tide hosted the Gators in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

“In our case, we couldn’t practice at all in the summer, couldn’t have a scrimmage, couldn’t have an exhibition game,” Oats said. “It affected us, and we have some experienced guys. Kentucky has so many one-and-dones every year that just about their entire roster is new. But they’ll get it worked out.”

A little luck in the form of close wins over Mississippi State and Vanderbilt helped, but UK was in fine form on Saturday night, drubbing Florida 76-58. Several factors have contributed to the about-face, but the most noticeable are the outside shooting of Dontaie Allen, who played just 19 total minutes in the pre-conference games but is averaging 14.3 points in the SEC wins, and improved post play from 7-foot Wake Forest transfer Olivier Starr.

Crimson Tide will need to regain focus

Although it is off to its best SEC start since 1986-87, Alabama will have to leave it’s celebration behind in the Auburn Arena visitor’s locker room where it celebrated its first win at AU since 2015. .

"Music was thumping a little bit by the time I got back there,” Oats said. “Those seniors haven't won here since they got here. To get a win their senior year was huge. Guys understand the rivalry. Great when you win some close games."

Alabama has not won at Rupp Arena since Jan. 14, 2006, 

No update on Quinerly yet 

Oats had no immediate update on the status of point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who missed a second straight game on Saturday with an undisclosed medical condition.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter@cecilhurt