By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — It wasn’t always pretty or easy but Kentucky did enough of the right things at the right time to hold off Alabama 76-67 here Saturday.
Kentucky squandered a 15-point lead before clutch 3-pointers by Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans helped pull out the win after Alabama cut the lead to three points before going scoreless the final two minutes, 14 seconds.
“If you take away those 3’s late in the game, it’s a different game. That’s on them for getting their shooters shots,” Alabama coach Nate Oates said. “They are one of the better teams in the country. They are hard to score on.”
Calipari said every team’s game plan is to make UK take 3-pointers.
“We can make them. We will take 3’s but it is not how we play,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
How Kentucky is starting to play is depending on its Big Four to carry the load as it did again in this win that puts UK 3-0 in SEC play.
“There is no one that wants to play Alabama right now. They are taking 30 3-point shots, driving the ball. If we have to play them again it will be in the (SEC) Tournament and I will dread that,” Calipari said. “They are unique.”
— Quickley was 6-for-10 from the field, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, to finish with his 19 points along with five rebounds, three assists and one steal.
“If he goes 5-for-6, I don’t know who is better than them in the country,” Oates said.
Calipari said “the kid lives in the gym” and expects to make big shots like he did today.
— Hagans flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals yet Calipari wanted more.
“I was not happy with Ashton. I think he is the best point guard in the country,” Calipari said. “But I didn’t think he brought it to the level (I wanted). He made four or five plays that hurt our team.”
— Nick Richards was Nick Richards. He had 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 11 rebounds and five blocks. He also stayed out of foul trouble and finished the game with just one foul.
— Maxey seemed to be under fire from Calipari the entire game but still had 13 points on 6-for-17 shooting, four rebounds and one assist. “He is still learning and making high school players,” Calipari said.
Alabama, a prolific 3-point shooting team, was just 4-for-21 from long range, including 1-for-8 the second half. However, Alabama outscored UK 44-20 in the paint and got 17 points off 14 UK turnovers while the Cats got just seven points off eight Alabama turnovers.
Oates said most of Alabama’s points in the paint came off transition, offensive boards or when UK would not sag off shooters to leave 3-point shots open.
“Their game plan was not to give us 3’s. They executed the game plan about to perfection,” Oates said. “They did what their coaching staff told them to do. But you are not able to take away everything. We did get by and get to the rim.”
“When they drove we had three guys go after the ball and they dropped off to guy under the basket,” Calipari said.
The shorter Tide also fought UK to a 44-44 standoff on the boards and got 16 offensive rebounds.
What helped UK was going 9-for-15 from 3-point range, it’s second highest number of the season. Kentucky was also 6-for-12 from long range at Georgia in Tuesday’s win.
“We broke down some, but we can block shots. We are long,” Calipari said. “It’s a good win. They are scoring 40 percent of their points from 3. I have never seen that. It’s hard to defend that.”