UK offense ebbs as Tide rolls in



By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel

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In almost every scenario imaginable, a basketball team that scores 22 second-half points will have little chance of winning a game.

That is, unless, that team holds the opposition to a similar number in the first.

In UK’s case, its first-half lead couldn’t hold up, as the Cats lost to Alabama, 59-55, Tuesday night.

The Cats took a 33-24 lead to the break in a half they largely dominated.

Freshman center Nerlens Noel continued to make his presence felt on both ends of the court. He had Alabama players timid entering the paint for much of the first half and went into halftime with four points, five rebounds and four blocks.

Noel’s control of the rim, combined with consistent 3-point defense, led to the Crimson Tide’s 35 percent first-half shooting.

Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer led UK (12-6, 3-2 SEC) with 11 points at the break.

But, as has become somewhat of a routine this season, the Cats surrendered their sizable lead. Alabama opened the half on an 11-1 run to ahead by one.

The UK offense went numb, failing to make a field goal for a stretch of 11 minutes and 32 seconds, ending with a layup by sophomore guard Ryan Harrow at the 12:02 mark of the second half.

From there, the Tide (12-6, 4-1 SEC) maintained a minimal lead down the stretch.

With freshman forward Alex Poythress on the bench with five fouls, the Cats kept it close, but they could never quite get over the hump.

Down one point with 1:20 left, Wiltjer missed the front end of a one-and-one. Alabama scored on the ensuing possession and the Cats would never get closer.

The lone bright spot was Noel, who again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks.

For a game that UK head coach John Calipari said Monday would be largely decided by the guards, his failed to do their part.

Freshman guard Archie Goodwin and sophomore guard Ryan Harrow combined to shoot 5-of-24 from the field. UK shot 29 percent for the second half.

The Cats will return to Lexington to face Louisianna State on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers enter their matchup with Texas A&M Wednesday night 0-4 in SEC play.

Saturday’s game at Rupp Arena will tip at 4 p.m.