Date: Saturday, January 24th
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Site: Coleman Coliseum (15,316) in Tuscaloosa, AL
Series History: UK leads 97-35 (27-21 at Alabama)
Last Meeting: UK 62, Alabama 52 (at Rupp Arena)
National Rankings: None
Coming off of the win against Auburn the Cats travel to Tuscaloosa, AL to face an Alabama team that has a similar style as the Tigers. They are freakishy athletic, they do not shoot the ball well, and they are not real big underneath. They do have a little more depth and talent than the Tigers, even without Ronald Steele who is out with planter fasciitis, but their lack of discipline often comes back to haunt them.
The Alabama Elephants have a 12-6 record (2-2 in conference) and are coming off of a 76-73 victory against Ole Miss in Oxford. They started out the season in the prestigious Maui Invitational, where they lost to Oregon and beat Chaminade and St. Joseph’s. They really do not have any non-conference wins that stick out. Their worst loss was a 72-69 setback to Mercer in their first game of the season. I think Kentucky knows a little about setbacks to start the year.
In the absence of Ronald Steele, the burden of go-to guy falls on the shoulders of senior Alonzo Gee (6-6, guard). Gee has really matured in his four years at Alabama and even with Steele in the lineup, he was leading the Tide in scoring with 14.3 points. But, now he will often find the ball in his hands at clutch time. He is not a very good perimeter shoulder (29-percent from deep) but he is extremely athletic and finds ways to get to the rim. He has scored in double figures in 16 consecutive games and has recorded three double-doubles this season. To prove Alabama’s lack of productivity from their bigs, he is also leading them in rebounding with 7.6 per game.
Sophomore Senario Hillman (6-1, guard) is Bama’s second leading scorer, averaging 13.6 per game. He is their best lock-down defender, so look for Hillman to chase Jodie, trying to keep him from touching the orange. Don’t expect any trash talk from Hillman as Meeks proved Rasheem Barrett’s prediction wrong on the second possession on the game. Hillman is terrible from deep but continues to pull the trigger for some reason. He is shooting 9-of-51 on the season, good for a whopping 18-percent. Combine senior Brandon Hollinger’s (5-11, guard) propensity to throw it up from deep despite any success, he is shooting 8-of-48 (17-percent), and you get some ugly numbers. You have to wonder how Mark Gottfried allows this to happen.
On Wednesday, the player that saw his minutes increase the most, in the absence of Steele, was junior Mikhail Torrance (6-5, guard). In his first start he scored 24 points, shot 9-of-14 from the field, 5-of-8 from deep, and recorded five rebounds. He is averaging 18.5 points in SEC play and is proving to be the Tides’ only threat from deep, 12-of-28 (43-percent).
The 2008 Alabama Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s All-American, Freshman JaMychal Green (6-9, forward), picked up right where he left off at Alabama. He recorded a double-double in his debut against Mercer with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He is averaging 8.8 points and 6.9 rebounds on the season.
Expect junior Yamene Coleman (6-10, forward) and sophomore Justin Knox (6-9, forward) to split time underneath and to use all of their combined ten fouls in an attempt (all you can do is attempt) to defend Patrick Patterson down low.
Alonzo Gee can be a beast, especially if he is feeling it offensively. But, if he is not, he and the rest of their guards will shoot themselves out of the game. They will take stupid shots, some amazingly will fall, but most will not. They have the athletes to stick with Kentucky but they won’t.
Cats make it 5-0 in the SEC as they win by 10 in Tuscaloosa. And somehow Mark Gottfried will still be their coach next year.
On a sidenote: I hope all of the UK fans realize how good this Jodie Meeks character is playing. On Wedneday he finished with 31 points and nobody even made a big deal about it. Not only did he score 31 points but he did it by taking only 13 shots. Do you realize how ridiculous that is? 31 points on 13 shots. At Tennessee he scored 54 on 22 shots. He has scored 30 or more six times this year. He has scored under 20 only seven times. He is in the National Player of the Year conversation. Jodie Meeks is such a beast.