Kentucky mens basketball embarrassed 78-52 in Tuscaloosa


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts to a play during the Kentucky vs. No. 7 Alabama mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama won 78-52. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball (10-5) was embarrassed 78-52 by No. 7 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

The 26-point loss marks the largest margin of defeat for Kentucky since the then No. 2 Cats were defeated 118-84 (34 points) by No. 4 Duke in the 2018 Champions Classic.

Kentucky’s stars were noticeably absent in the loss with the likes of consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe, veteran Jacob Toppin, who had been Kentucky’s leading scorer in the two games prior, five-star freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston and big man Daimion Collins all scoring less than five points.

Tshiebwe in particular, who averages a double-double this season, finished with four points, six rebounds and four fouls.

“We got rattled,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “(Oscar) was fading away on some of his stuff and that gave (Charles Bediako) a chance to block shots instead of going through him. We weren’t able to move and get where we needed to go.”

Toppin shot 1-10 from the field for a total of three points, tying Tshiebwe with six rebounds to be co-leading rebounder for the team.

Wallace and Livingston combined for six points on a combined 3-19 from the field and 0-9 from beyond the arc.

Finally, Collins finished with four points, finishing 2-3 from the field for the best final shooting percentage on the team.

As a team Kentucky shot 29% (21-73) from the field and 25% (5-20) from beyond the arc. Kentucky also finished 63% (5-8) from the free throw line, with the five points from free throws paling in comparison to the 18 free points Alabama scored.

“We did what we wanted to do but we missed every shot,” Calipari said. “You can’t have your starters that you’re banking on to make baskets go 3-27 and expect to win. We look discombobulated.”

As a team Kentucky recorded 20 personal fouls including a technical foul on point guard Sahvir Wheeler, with Wheeler and Tshiebwe both finishing one away from fouling out of the game.

Wheeler, to his credit, finished as one of only two Wildcats to record a double-digit point total, finishing the day with 15 points, shooting 7-16 from the field. Wheeler was 0-2 from beyond the arc.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) shoots the ball during the Kentucky vs. No. 7 Alabama mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama won 78-52. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The only other Cat to record double digits was the team’s leading scorer for the day, Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves, who finished the game with 20 points, including a last second 3-pointer.

Reeves shot 7-13 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the arc. He shot 2-4 from the free throw line but made up for his 0-2 trip to the line with a quick 3-pointer immediately after the rebound.

Unfortunately for Reeves and Wheeler, the strong offensive performances were the outliers on the night for Kentucky, with the team even finishing 3-17 on layup attempts.

Kentucky did not record a single second in the lead against Alabama, with the Tide taking the lead in with a layup less than 20 seconds into the game and never surrendering it.

The Tide led by as many as 31 in the win, with Brandon Miller notching 19 points and Mark Sears adding 16.

Only two Tide players finished with a negative plus-minus figure while Lance Ware was the only positive athlete for Kentucky, finishing with a +3.

Now looking to get back to .500 in conference play Kentucky turns its sights back home to Lexington where it faces off against South Carolina inside Rupp Arena on Jan. 10.

“We gotta regroup,” Calipari said. “We got a game on Tuesday. We gotta regroup and go. I don’t even want to know if I want to look at the tape (from Alabama), I may watch the first half. We’re okay.”

Tipoff against the Gamecocks is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN2.