Double-double trouble from Wall, Cousins gives Cats 66-55 win [SLIDESHOW]

Freshman guard John Wall and freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins celebrate in the last seconds of the UK men’s basketball game against Alabama at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. The Cats won 66-55. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

For UK (23-1, 8-1 Southeastern Conference), it was another slow start, but this time there wasn’t a coast to victory.

Double-doubles from DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall saved the Cats in a 66-55 win over a pesky Alabama team (13-11, 3-7 SEC).

While Cousins and Wall provided the statistical answers for UK, the performance of sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins might have been the difference.

Liggins gave the Cats a boost throughout the game, diving on loose balls and grabbing timely rebounds. Upon entering the game in the first half, Liggins immediately grabbed two offensive boards to keep a possession alive for UK which eventually led to a two-point basket.

Liggins finished with eight points and seven rebounds, but his hustle and defensive presence might have been even more impressive.

The Cats missed five of their first seven shots of the game, and committed 11 turnovers in the first half, but used a stingy defense to hold Alabama to 24 points in the period, taking a seven-point lead into the break.

“They came out and they made their shots early,” Calipari said. “We were all over them and they were making shots. I’m telling you, this is how Alabama has played all year. Three, one-point losses.”

UK trailed 11-6 at the first TV timeout. Similar to last weekend’s game against Louisiana State, the Cats found their groove a short time later and went on an 11-2 run to take a 17-13 lead. Alabama came right back to tie the game at 17, but wouldn’t lead again.

With 3:41 to go, Wall took an outlet pass from Liggins and sprinted into the open court. Wall made a quick crossover to his right, moved the ball behind his back, jumping backwards while getting fouled and banked in the shot. The ensuing free throw gave the Cats a 24-19 lead.

Conversely, Alabama made five of their first seven shots, but just six of their last 24 shots of the half.

After leading 31-24 at halftime, the Cats methodically pushed the lead to 14 points at 42-28. But Alabama wouldn’t go away, cutting the lead to six with 7:46 to go in the game.

With 2:30 left in the game, Wall dribbled into the lane and slotted a perfect bounce pass to freshman forward Daniel Orton for a dunk to give the Cats a 60-51 lead and some much needed breathing room.

“In the second half (Wall) played,” Calipari said. “He ran our team. We were grinding it out at times which we have to learn to do which I was happy we were able

to do.”

The Cats held the lead for the final few minutes and capped it off with a Patrick Patterson one-handed jam. Wall stretched in the closing possessions to get his 10th rebound for the points-rebounds double-double.

“We missed some shots to make this a higher scoring game, but you have to give them credit,” Calipari said. “They did their thing and they were grinding it out. They did well.”