TUSCALOOSA — Defense did it again for the offense-challenged Alabama basketball team.
The Crimson Tide won its fourth straight Tuesday night, using a healthy dose of defense to beat defending national champion Kentucky 59-55. The Wildcats entered having averaged 77.1 points a game and had a season low of 64 before coming to Coleman Coliseum.
The game drew Alabama’s first home sellout of the year at 15,383 and an ESPN national television audience. Coleman Coliseum saw its most electric atmosphere of the season, as the fans — some wearing the 10,000 free crimson T-shirts passed out before tipoff —stood for much of the final minutes of the game.
Alabama (12-6, 4-1 SEC) led the final 9:43 but never by more than four until the final seconds.
Trevor Releford had 13 points, while Levi Randolph managed 11. Both made important foul shots toward the end. Nick Jacobs had a team-high 14 points.
The Crimson Tide led Kentucky (12-6, 3-2) only 51-50 with 1:12 to play. Andrew Steele then missed a driving layup against Nerlens Noel, the SEC’s leading shot-blocker, but Alabama’s Nick Jacobs put in the rebound.
Rodney Cooper later added a foul shot, Steele had one and Randolph two as Kentucky kept missing shots. The Wildcats had a stretch of 11:35 without a basket, and they didn’t hit one from 2:14 until Julius Mays sank a 3-pointer with 8.8 seconds to play. That only cut Alabama’s lead to 57-53, when the Tide appeared to have this one in hand.
Releford added a pair of foul shots, and Kentucky’s Noel slammed home a basket for the final points.
The Alabama-Kentucky game received 13 credential requests for NBA teams sending a scout. ... The NBA scouts included former Alabama head coach David Hobbs (1992-98) and former Crimson Tide assistant Gregg Polinsky (1986-95), who is now director of player personnel for the Brooklyn Nets. ...
Alabama 7-foot-0 junior Moussa Gueye started his third straight game, even though he hadn’t scored in the previous four contests. He had the Tide’s first basket of the night and finished with four points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in his most productive performance of the season. ... Alabama got outrebounded 44-32. ...
Noel finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots for Kentucky. ... Nick Jacobs’ points came off the bench, and 10 came in the second half.
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