SEC Tournament Quarterfinals: No. 16 UK vs. Alabama Game Breakdown

Anthony Crawford

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UK opened its weekend in Nashville with an impressive win over the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Cats Offense rolled behind Alex Poythress and Jamal Murray to win 85-59 in the Quarterfinal matchup of the SEC Tournament. UK moves on to play the winner of the South Carolina/Georgia game.

MVP: Alex Poythress

Senior Alex Poythress is approaching his last stretch of the games in a UK uniform and he continues to play some of his best basketball. The forward showcased an improved three-point shot to complement his already strong inside game as he racked up 20 points and seven rebounds. Poythress showed again Friday how much he liked the matchup with Alabama as he had scored a combined 39 points in the teams two previous games against the Tide.

Alabama had no answer for him again as he was able to bully and spin past defenders in the post at ease. He also showed something fans haven’t seen out of him all season, as he went 4-for-5 from behind the arc. Poythress was 2-for-16 from three coming into this game.

Game Defining Moment: Eight-Straight Points by the Kentucky Natives

The first eight minutes of the game, it was a back-and-forth affair with Alabama seamlessly having an answer for every UK score. That changed around the eleven-minute mark after Derek Willis checked in. It marked the first time he had played since sustaining an ankle injury at Texas A&M.

The Mt. Washington product wasted no time hitting a three soon after checking into the game. Willis’ bucket was then followed by Dominique Hawkins following suit and knocking down another shot from deep. Hawkins then drove inside and hit a floater to make it eight-straight points from the Kentucky-products and bring the Bridgestone Arena crowd to their feet. From there, the crowd stayed loud to help power UK to a ten-point halftime lead.

Trending Up: UK’s Depth

Winning three games in three days is the feat UK will have to accomplish if it hopes to take home an SEC title and the depth it showed against Alabama will certainly help. With Willis returning from injury, UK was able to go nine players deep in its rotation. With that many bodies at his disposal, head coach John Calipari can have confidence continuing to press opponents and keep the pace of the game up, which is when UK is at its most formidable.

Trending Down: Ulis Ball Security

The day started out unusual for the Cats, with a quick turnover from point guard Tyler Ulis. The Chicago-native went on to cough up the ball two more times in the first half. With Ulis playing at such a high level all season, even the minor miscues seemed strange when committed by the guard, but Ulis was able to get back to those ways and commit no turnovers in the second half. 

Stat of the Game: 13-23 from Shooting Three-point Range

The Cats are a dangerous offensive team with Murray and Ulis alone hitting threes, but when the rest of the team gets involved, it results in victories like the 85-59 win against Alabama.

UK fans at this point can expect Murray to light it up for at least three makes from deep, but with Willis back from injury and Hawkins and Poythress uncharacteristically hitting, there are few weak spots on the team offensively. Asking UK to continue hitting 57 percent of its threes is ridiculous, but if the Cats can stay above 40 percent, the SEC Championship looks to be theirs for the taking.