Outside of Rupp Arena the sky was gray, the rain was pouring, and the air was cold.
Inside of Rupp Arena was, arguably, the most fun experience of Kentucky’s home basketball slate. Inside of a packed arena a fan hit a half-court shot to win $10,000, everybody in the arena won a free chicken and biscuit from Chik-Fil-A, Bam Adebayo was the “Y”, and even Derek Willis came out and had some very Derek Willis moments. Everything felt right today.
Oh, and the ‘Cats pulled away at the end of the game with a strong victory to add to their NCAA Tournament resume.
Kentucky defeated Alabama on this dreary afternoon 81-71 behind strong performances by virtually every Wildcat.
PJ Washington lead the way with 16 points for the ‘Cats on 5-9 shooting from the floor while also going 6-9 from the free throw line.
Quade Green was arguably Kentucky’s most impressive player on the day. Quade finished with 12 points on 5-6 shooting from the field, while also going a perfect 2-2 from three-point range, which included a faux assist by Brandon Key of Alabama when he tipped a loose ball right to Green for a corner three. He added in four assists, but was also extremely active on defense.
Kevin Knox added in 13 points, but his biggest impact from his extremely active offensive rebounding off of missed shots. He got a couple of very difficult rebounds off of his misses early in the second half that put the crowd in an absolute frenzy. He was also the Kroger Player of the Game.
Jarred Vanderbilt had his typical roller coaster of a game, one that ends in thrilling relief. He had 11 points, including around three missed layups, with nine rebounds in which five were offensive. He also chipped in two blocks, and 3-4 shooting from the free throw line.
Though Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had one of his quieter games, he had his big moments. In the last four minutes of the game he had some absolutely pivotal defensive stops that Kentucky desperately needed to win the game. He also had some beautiful dishes to Nick Richards that resulted in clean dunks.
For Alabama, many fans were worried about how big of an impact Collin Sexton would have. The answer: not as much as we thought. Sexton finished with 12 points on only 4-11 shooting, including an o’fer from three (0-4). Alex Reese had a good game for Alabama from three-point land (2-4). Donta Hall went 7-8 from the field after hurting his hand very early in the game on a block. John Petty would like to forget this contest, as he went 3-11 from the field, including 3-10 from three.
Overall Kentucky brought the game they needed today to beat an NCAA Tournament caliber team in Alabama. Was it their best game?
No, but this is the type of game that shows Kentucky is improving, and that they can be a very good team come tournament time. We can only hope the momentum carries over to Fayetteville.