Kentucky defeated by Alabama for the first time in six years


Freshman guard Keldon Johnson on the ground after being fouled. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated University of North Carolina 80-72 in the CBS Sports Classic at the United Center on Saturday, December 22, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

The Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide in the Cats’ first SEC test of the season. Despite Ashton Hagans’ late defensive efforts, the now-10-3 Wildcats lost the match-up 77-75.

It was a back-and-forth battle for much of the first half, as both teams came out to a hot start. For the first few minutes, the game was heavily controlled by play in the paint, until Alabama’s Tevin Mack opened up the three-point game at the 16:38 mark to go up by five. Kentucky forward/guard Keldon Johnson responded with his team’s first three of the game. 

Mack ended up as Kentucky’s biggest test in the first half—the junior finished with 20 points in the half on 6-of-6 three-point shooting and 7-of-9 shooting from the field. 

Wildcat freshman Ashton Hagans was an important factor yet again for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball but found his teammates on the attack and finished the first half with three assists. Hagans also added eight points for the Cats in the first half. 

In a pre-game interview, Alabama head coach said one of the Crimson Tide’s key factors in the game would have to be rebounding, and by the end of the first half, Kentucky only out-rebounded their opponent 17-16. 

To start out the second half, the Wildcats led 40-38, Reid Travis leading the Cats with 10 points. Alabama’s Mack, UK’s biggest threat in the first 20 minutes, only had two points in the second half and didn’t make his first shot until the 8:38 mark in the half. 

The Crimson Tide took an eight-point lead around 13 minutes in with a Herbert Jones free throw. With a few made free throws and a big PJ Washington dunk, UK managed to cut Alabama’s lead down to five, but a Kira Lewis three-pointer gave UA their eight-point lead back. 

With 3:11 left to go, a layup by Donta Hall gave Alabama its biggest lead of the game with 11. Kentucky battled within the last few minutes of the game, cutting Alabama’s lead to one with five seconds left after an open Washington dunk. However, the Cats couldn’t fully recover, resulting in Alabama’s 77-75 victory. 

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Kentucky went just 37 percent from the field in the second. The leading scorer for the Cats was Washington, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Hagans lead the team in assists with six.  

Kentucky’s next test will be in its SEC home opener on Tuesday night against Texas A&M at 7:00.