UK comeback not enough in 68-66 loss



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — UK was coming back, and coming back, and it seemed like the Cats might be able to grab a victory.

But the comeback bid from 20 points down fell two points shy as No. 13 UK (14-4, 2-2 SEC) fell on the road to Alabama (11-7, 3-1 SEC).

Terrence Jones scored 17 points and Doron Lamb added 16, but UK was held to 38 percent shooting by the Tide defense, which gives up the fewest points in the SEC.

Alabama’s JaMychal Green had 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Crimson Tide made 7 of their 14 threes after hitting just 3 of 21 in their first three SEC games.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win the game,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “We had no reason to even still be in the game at that point by the way we were playing. Then all of a sudden we have the ball down one with a chance to win.”

It looked like Alabama was going to embarrass UK after earning a 20-point lead with 15 minutes to play.

And then UK started to chip away. The Cats clamped down on defense, forcing a turnover on seven straight possessions.

“I told the team that if we got it down to nine or ten points we could win this game,” said Calipari, who apologized on Twitter after the game for his language during the game, which was televised on ESPN.

UK got to that mark, as the lead was cut to single digits with eight minutes left. The chance to win came soon after.

Three times in the final four minutes, UK cut the lead to one point. But the Cats never could recapture a lead, and made 7 of 14 free throws in the second half.

With UK trailing by one and under a minute left, Brandon Knight drove the lane, but Alabama bodies were in front of him and he was called for a charge.

But on the next possession, DeAndre Liggins drew a charge on Alabama that gave UK another shot with 10.8 seconds left.

Brandon Knight had the ball on the perimeter. Doron Lamb circled over to take a handoff, but the two guards weren’t close enough to each other and Alabama’s Ben Eblen stuck his hand out and got a deflection.

“The guy muscles Doron off,” Calipari said. “We show it on tape all the time and say this is why you lose close games.”

Alabama hit one of two free throws for a two-point lead, and UK was inbounding the ball with 2.5 seconds left under its own basket. The pass went to Terrence Jones around half court, who turned and heaved a shot from half court. It clanked high off the backboard, as the last chance at a dramatic come back fell two points short.

But while the comeback was valiant, the original deficit was UK’s fault. A lack of energy and careless passing contributed to five early turnovers, and UK was getting outrebounded and outmuscled. Alabama outrebounded UK 41-34.

“They manhandled us,” Calipari said. “The first however long they controlled the game.”

This was the kind of night it was in the first 25 minutes: In the opening minutes of the second half, Josh Harrellson missed an uncontested dunk. On the other end, Alabama drilled an uncontested three.

“We took a lot of bad shots,” Calipari said. “We had some guys out there who just couldn’t play that game. We had young guys and we made young inexperienced mistakes.”