UK cruises by Alabama to stay undefeated


UK guard Aaron Harrison (2) leaps against Alabama forward Shannon Hale (11) to score a dunk into the basket during the first half of the mens basketball game against Alabama in Rupp Arena on Wednesday, January 31, 2015. Photo by Marcus Dorsey

By Kevin Erpenbeck

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Another UK game, another 10-plus point win.

The Cats’ 70-55 home win over Alabama kept the season’s undefeated streak alive as they showcased yet another efficient game this season.

Per the norm for the 2014-15 UK squad.

“We’re an efficient team,” said head coach John Calipari. “That’s how we play. Good defense today … we shot over 50 percent. It was a good league win.”

Alabama (13-8) made the game’s first basket 28 seconds in, but only held the lead for 20 more seconds before No. 1 UK (21-0) went on 7-0 run. From then on, the Cats never trailed again, and have now been behind in points for 100 total minutes out of a possible 855 minutes on the season.

UK mastered the Crimson Tide from all over the court on Saturday, collecting the season sweep in the process. The Cats shot for 58 percent from the floor compared to Alabama’s 45 percent. UK dished out 14 assists while Alabama only had four.

The Cats kept control of the ball nearly the entire game, giving away only two turnovers before the half and five total in the game. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide surrendered 10 of their 13 total turnovers by halftime.

The one statistic that went Alabama’s way was rebounds, where they had 26-to-21 advantage over the Cats.

Despite excelling early on, UK only led by 13 at the break. For Calipari, it’s those periods of time that he wants the team to play more than efficient basketball.

“I thought our defense in the first half was really good, and then we fouled and gave up a layup late,” Calipari said. “Instead of being (up) 17 or 18 (points), it’s 13 and they got a chance. That’s the one thing this team’s not doing; putting people away when they get that opportunity.”

UK’s post game shined offensively as well. Freshman forward Karl Towns and junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein were a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor and led the team in points with 12 apiece. Both were in foul trouble, however, as Towns only played for 15 minutes, fouling out with 7:22 remaining in the game.

Towns described the Cats’ inside presence as “effective,” something he hopes to see become a theme for the remainder of the season.

“Everything was clicking today, and we need to keep that going,” Towns said. “We just have to become better players every day; all post-up players, including me.”

In the closing minutes, a video board inside Rupp Arena showed the final score of the Duke-Virginia game that ended just a few minutes prior. Duke won 69-63, knocking Virginia off the list of unbeaten teams left in the NCAA. With UK’s win soon to follow, the Cats became the last perfect-record team standing.

But no matter what the record is between now and March, Calipari said the goal is still trying to figure out exactly how good the team is and can be.

And, of course, where they finish at the season’s end.

“I’m trying to get guys to go to that next level. I’m prodding, pushing, yelling and screaming because I really do want to see how good we can really be,” Calipari said. “I told them last night, ‘(If) we lose, we’re 20-1. So?’ You lose in March, your season is over. I would rather them win them all. But if they don’t, they don’t. Just as long as we’re getting better.”