By LARRY VAUGHT
Whatever mojo the Kentucky basketball team found to beat North Carolina and Louisville in its previous two games it lost in the second half against Alabama.
The Wildcats lost 77-75 to Alabama — a team UK had beat 10 straight times — when Tyler Herro’s 3-point shot from the top of the key at the buzzer hit the back of the rim after Kentucky stormed back from an 8-point deficit in the final two minutes.
“Alabama played their butts off. They played with desperation.I thought after we got down we kept playing and gave ourselves a chance to win. As a coach, that’s all you can ask. We will go lick our wounds and get on to a game we have to play Tuesday (against Texas A&M),” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game.
The Wildcats shot only 37.1 percent in the second half and lost a SEC opener for the first time since 2011.
Even more shocking was that after dominating the rebounding early, Kentucky ended the game getting outrebounded 43-33. Alabama also shot 43.5 percent from 3-point range thanks to Tevin Mack, a 29 percent 3-point shooter coming into the game, went 6-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half.
“They out rebounded us because we missed so many shots. My guess is that we missed 10 1-footers, and that stuff happens,” Calipari said.
“We didn’t deserve to win the game. We didn’t have any business winning that game. We just clawed back and gave ourselves a chance. To start the game, they were on point to score a 100. We could not press. We just had guys jog back.”
Calipari said Mack had “beer muscles” and it started with the way Kentucky defended — or didn’t defend — early in the game.
“The kid made six in a row, and that’s hard to do in a game like this,” Calipari said.
The Kentucky coach was especially upset with the way UK played to start the second half after it survived Mack’s 20-point first half and still had a lead.
“The iggest thing of the second half was how we started. I was so disappointed. Had to sub two guys,” Calipari said. “That really, really disappointed me. That means guy are into their own realm versus how we have to be as a team collectively.”
Kentucky had five players in double figures — PJ Washington (15), Keldon Johnson (13), Herro (12), Ashton Hagans(12) and Reid Travis (12). However, Herro was just 4-for-12 from the field and Travis had just one field goal the final 30 minutes and also had five turnovers.
Hagans had six assists and three steals — but forced several more turnovers with his defense. He was 5-for-10 from the field.