Kentucky hosts Alabama, vies for 1,000th SEC win

NCAA Basketball
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Kentucky will be looking for its 1,000th Southeastern Conference victory on Saturday afternoon when Alabama visits Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats already are the first basketball program to reach 2,000 total victories.

The stage is set for history when No. 14 Kentucky (11-3, 2-0 SEC) hosts Alabama (8-6, 1-1).

On Tuesday, Kentucky rallied from a nine-point, first half deficit to post a 78-69 victory at Georgia in the Wildcats’ first true road game of the season.

“Any time you win on the road in this league, it’s big,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said afterward. “Our kids fought it and won the game.”

One key was almost an afterthought. With the game tied at 26, Georgia went on a run that was punctuated by an Anthony Edwards dunk with only 15 seconds remaining before halftime. However, Kentucky sophomore Ashton Hagans sprinted to the other end and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a six-point margin.

“Ashton’s play at halftime was big,” Calipari said. “If he doesn’t make that, then all of a sudden it’s a different game. All of a sudden it gets to 12 or 13 and we may not win this game. That play, that one play where he drove it down and was alert to make a basket, was a big play.”

Kentucky outscored Georgia by a 47-32 margin in the second half.

Kentucky shoots 46.4 percent, including 30.1 from 3-point range. The Wildcats lead the SEC at 78.2 percent from the free throw line.

Leading the way is freshman guard Tyrese Maxey at 14.0 points per game and junior forward Nick Richards at 13.0 and a team-best 7.5 rebounds. Hagans and fellow sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley average 12.9 and 12.8 points, respectively.

Alabama is coming off a 90-69 rout of Mississippi State on Wednesday night.

John Petty Jr. paced the victory with 18 points, including four 3-point baskets. Kira Lewis Jr. scored 17, James Bolden and Galin Smith each added 11, and Jaden Shackelford had 10.

Overall, Petty (16.7 points per game) and Lewis (16.6) lead the way for the Crimson Tide. Shackelford checks in at 12.8 with three other players averaging just under double figures.

The Crimson Tide are shooting 44.5 percent, including 37.2 from 3-point range. They average 84.4 points per game, thanks in large part to 11.1 3-pointers per game.

Still, first-year Alabama coach Nate Oats said he knows scoring on the Kentucky defense will be tough. The Wildcats allow just 62.2 points per game.

“I’m way more worried about figuring out how to score against them than (about) getting stops,” Oats said.

He added: “I don’t have that figured out. I have a lot of film study to do.”

–Field Level Media

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