ST. LOUIS – The Alabama men’s basketball team fell to No. 4-seed Kentucky, 86-63, Saturday afternoon in the semifinal round of the 2018 SEC Tournament at the Scottrade Center.
“First of all, I'm so unbelievably proud of our guys,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “When we got on the plane to come to St. Louis, there are a lot of unknowns about kind of our future, especially in the NCAA Tournament, but the perseverance that they've showed this year and especially over the last 48, 72 hours, for what I'm told, we've played ourselves hopefully in the tournament. But I'm proud of them. They've persevered. They've showed a lot of character, togetherness, teamwork. We've got guys diving on the floor for balls more than we ever have, taking charges, moving the ball on offense, getting the ball to the hot player. So I can go on and on.”
Freshman Collin Sexton recorded his 15th 20-point performance of the year, scoring 21 points to become the Crimson Tide’s all-time leading scorer in the SEC Tournament with 79 points. The former record of 77 points was set by James “Hollywood” Robinson in 1992. Sexton tallied 27 points and hit the game-winning shot in the second round contest against Texas A&M, followed by a 31-point performance in an upset over top-seeded Auburn in the quarterfinals.
Freshman John Petty also reached double figures, dropping 5-of-9 shots from beyond the arc to score 18 points.
The two sides battled back-and-forth to start the game with eight lead changes in the first six minutes of the contest as Alabama led 9-8. After Kentucky took the 11-10 advantage, the Tide kept the game within one possession, before the Wildcats pushed ahead with a 7-0 run to go up 25-16 with 2:52 remaining in the opening half.
Alabama closed out the half only shooting 1-of-11 from the floor as Kentucky took the 29-19 lead into the halftime break.
The Wildcats extended its lead in the second half, opening up with an 11-4 run to push the lead to 40-23 with 16:26 left in the game. However, the Crimson Tide continued to show resilience and would make a push. Alabama cut the deficit to 50-37 with 11:43 left after junior Avery Johnson Jr. knocked down a corner three-pointer to begin a rally. Then, Petty cut the lead to single digits after Petty completed the old-fashioned three-point play with 5:15 to go as the Tide trailed 62-53.
On the following possession, the Wildcats responded with another Wenyen Gabriel three-pointer to push the lead back to 12 and out of Alabama’s reach. Gabriel finished a perfect 7-of-7 from the three-point line to go along with his game-high 23 points.
Kentucky shot a scorching 84.2 percent (16-of-19) from the field in the second half including 8-of-9 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes of play. For the game, UK converted 12-of-18 shots from beyond the arc to average 64.3 percent from the field (27-of-42) in the contest to secure the win.
Despite the Crimson Tide owning the advantage in rebounding, 31-27, while also holding the advantage in second chance points, 13-0, and bench points, 33-31, the Wildcats held Alabama to just 37.9 percent shooting (22-of-58) from the floor in the game to move on to the final round.
Alabama will now await its postseason fate, which will be known on Sunday night.