Kentucky Defeats Alabama After Being Down 11 with 8 To Play
Advances to Play South Carolina

Game Preview:

In January, Alabama came to Lexington and left with a rare victory of UK at Rupp Arena. For Kentucky , that loss was the third loss in a row, and the second straight home loss to open the SEC regular season. In that game, the UK offense played just about as anticipated, but the defense was totally ineffective. Alabama won by 4 points, 68-64.

On the season, Alabama has been slightly more effective offensively this season than Kentucky [0.901 ppp v. 0.897 ppp]. Kentucky has posted slightly stronger defensive numbers for the season [0.847 v. 0.860 ppp]. UK has averaged 79.6 possessions per game, while holding its opponents to only 78.4 possessions per game due to a +1 average offensive rebounding margin per game. Alabama averages 78.0 possessions per game this season, and allows their opponents 78.0 possessions per game. These teams should play this game in the upper 70s pace.

Alabama currently has a Net Game Efficiency for the year of 0.041 ppp while UK 's current NGE stands at 0.050 ppp. Alabama has played a stronger schedule than Kentucky this season [0.5930 v 0. 5875]. 

The Pros in Vegas say Kentucky will defeat Alabama Froday to advance to the SEC semifinals against the winner of the Tennessee-USC quarterfinal by 2 ½ points, 64-62. This season, UK is 12-14 against the spread. The Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength and venue suggests this game is a pick-em matchup, but Kentucky holds a very slim edge over the Crimson tide, 69-68. The pre-game Magic Number is 68 points.

The First Half:

Both teams open this game with very poor shooting, and slog their way to a 2-2 tie at the end of the first mini-game of the contest. The pace is equivalent to about 80 possessions for the game which is about average, but the efficiency is inept for UK, 0.469 ppp at the under 4 timeout of the first half, with Alabama holding a 7 point lead, 22-15. UK came out of the time out with Alleyne, who responded with two consecutive blocks and a basket on the ensuing transition. When Alleyne converted the free throw to complete the 3 point play, UK had cut the lead to 4 points, 22-18, after trailing early 20-10. A 3 pointer by Crawford cut the lead to 1, and Sims takes a charge with 1 ½ to play, giving UK an opportunity to take a rare first half lead. In total, coming down to the last possession of the half, UK came up dry on their first two opportunities to take the lead. However, following a UK timeout to call the play, the Cats looked totally confused, committed a turn over, but Alabama turned it back over with 3.4 seconds to go. The inbounds play was a lob to Alleyne, who made the shot, to give UK the 1 point halftime lead, 23-22.

UK scored its 23 points on 38 possessions [0.605 ppp] and Alabama scored its 22 points on 39 possessions, 0.564 points per possession for the half. Alabama won three of the mini-games in the first half, and UK won the remaining two.

Of UK's 38 first half possessions, 6 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 2 second chance points. Alabama earned 7 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 2-second chance points. UK had a pitiful offensive efficiency on its first chance possessions, of 0.656 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and an even weaker 0.333 ppp for its 6-second chance possessions. Alabama had a 0.625 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions but Alabama did not take full advantage of it 9-second chances by scoring only 2 points, 0.222 ppp.

Alabama made only 5 of its 10 free throw attempts [50.0%] while UK converted 2 of its 3 attempts from the line [66.7%]. Alabama out rebounded Kentucky in the first half, 25-19, and Alabama won the battle of the offensive rebounds 7-6 during the first half. Alabama shot 36.8% [7-19] from inside the arc, and a weak 1-6 from beyond the arc [16.7%]. Kentucky also shot poorly 6-19 [31.6%] inside the arc and a poor 3-14 [21.4%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 76 possessions for UK and 78 possessions for Mississippi .



The pregame analysis indicated a magic number of 68 points. However, based on the pace and effectiveness of the teams in the first half today, the magic number is modified to 46 points. The first team to score its 46 th point will win this game. UK needs to score 23 more points in the second half to reach this level before Alabama can score 24 points in this race to 46 points. Alabama scored its 46 th point of the game on a three pointer with 8:55 minutes to play to take the lead to 48-42. Alabama played out the last 9 minutes of the clock to secure the victory, 70-59.

The Second Half:

Kentucky comes out and scores 6 points on its first 5 possessions of the second half while limiting Alabama to only 2 points in their first 6 to take a 5 point lead, 29-24, and forcing Alabama to call an unscheduled timeout at the 18 minute mark to regroup. Alabama found it's answer, Steele scored 5 straight out of the timeout to tie the game again, this time at 29-29. At the end of the first mini-game, UK was holding on to a 2 point lead, 31-29. On the race to 46, UK leads, needing 15 to Alabama 's 17 to reach the Magic Number. In the second mini-game of the second half, Alabama retakes the lead and extend it to 10 points, 41-31 at the under 12 timeout.

The Race to 46 is becoming critical for UK now, with Alabama only needing 5 more points, while UK remains 15 shy of the Magic Number. At the under 8 time out [ 6:59 to play], Alabama continues to hold a 10 point lead, 55-45. However, UK responded again, cutting the lead to 2 points, 61-59 at the under 4 timeout [ 2:42 to play]. UK catches up at 61 on a pair of Morris free throws with 2:06 to play. UK then moved on to score the last 7 points for a 68-61 victory.

The Outcome:

Alabama won the battle of the boards for the game, 45-35 and Alabama won the battle of the offensive boards 16-10. Alabama grabbed an impressive 39.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a weak 25.6% of its misses. UK scored 68 points on its 77 possessions [0.883 ppp] while Alabama scored its 61 points using 84 possessions [0.726 ppp]. Kentucky committed 9 turnovers to Alabama 's 15 for the game.

Kentucky had 67 first chance possessions in which they scored 62points, 0.925 ppp while they scored 6 points on their 10-second chance possessions, 0.600 ppp. Alabama had 68 first chance possessions on which they scored 55 points, 0.809 ppp while they scored 6 second chance points on their 16 second chance possessions, 0.375 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball below their season average from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 41.7% [15-36] inside the arc, and a strong 10-27 from beyond the arc [37.0%] for a combined shooting percentage of 39.7%. The Free throw shooting was above average for the Cats today, 8-11 [72.7%]. Alabama shot the ball below their season average from the field today. From inside the arc, the Crimson Tide hit 37.5% [15-40] and from long range, Alabama hit a good 35.0% [7-20]. Alabama 's free throw shooting was poor, 10-18 [55.6%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 8.6 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 5.6 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky win over Alabama today, 69-68. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.870 and 0.883 ppp respectively for a C effort on offense. The predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.875 and 0.726 ppp respectively for an B+ on defense.

The Cats advance to the SEC Semifinals on Saturday afternoon against South Carolina .

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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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