By LARRY VAUGHT
What did beating Kentucky — something Alabama had not done in the last 10 games — mean to Alabama?
Here’s how Alabama coach Avery Johnson explained it after the Tide beat Kentucky 77-75 Saturday.
“First, I want to congratulate Kentucky on a hard-fought game,” Johnson said to start his postgame press conference. “Secondly, I want to just say, to all our Alabama basketball supporters and fans that showed up and made a bunch of noise today, we can’t thank you enough.
“Our guys poured their hearts out on the floor today. Was it beautiful at all times? No. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Especially after we got a 10-point lead. But this was a huge win for us.
‘We didn’t let (the media) in on it, but we needed to beat Kentucky. We needed to win this game. We talked about finishing the game with one more point than Kentucky. No excuses. We’re at home. Yes, some of our fans are out in California, for a good reason (for the national football championship game). We like that.
“But, the ones that showed up today, we can’t thank you enough for your support and the noise you made. The student section was rocking. A lot of our students came back early for this game. So, just amazing.”
Then Johnson almost sounded like Kentucky coach John Calipari trying to downplay the message he had just hyped himself.
“I don’t want to overdo it – we didn’t win the championship. We haven’t played another SEC game yet, but this was huge for our program,” Johnson said. “I am really proud of our guys and our coaching staff.
“We worked extremely hard for four days, probably the hardest four-day stretch of practice we’ve had since we’ve been here, and it paid dividends for us.”