By RICHARD CHEEKS
The Kentucky Wildcats worked against the LSU Tigers to establish a 16 point halftime lead, and in less than 2 minutes into the second half, the Cats extended the lead to a comfortable 21 points. However, the Cats relaxed, and within another 2 minutes, LSU had scored 10 straight to pull back to within 11 points at the under 16 media timeout. The Tigers managed to narrow their deficit to 10 points, 53-43 with 14:22 remaining, and then the Cats expanded their lead to 25 points over the next 6 minutes, at which time it seemed as though the Cats has decided to put the worst team in the SEC away by a comfortable margin.
However, that would not be the case, as the Cats allowed LSU to outscore then 31-14 over the final 7 ½ minutes and final 15 possessions of the game. Following the game, Coach Calipari was not a happy coach, and would have taken his team directly to the practice facility for a marathon self-examination if the NCAA limits on practice time did not prevent it. So, that grueling practice session had to wait for Wednesday. That left practice on Thursday for Coach Calipari to get the badly needed attention of his players before packing for their Friday travels to Tuscaloosa where they will face Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
A season that started with such high hopes, sustained by game performance through mid-January, that identified this team as one of the best in the country this season, and a legitimate favorite to win the championship in April. However, that all began to unravel for this team 9 games ago when it traveled to Vanderbilt following three consecutive 20+ SEC wins to start the conference season.
Today, UK’s postseason stock value continues to fall, and SEC opponents now smell Cat blood in the water, and believe they will be able to get one of those rare signature wins over a UK basketball team. Alabama is clearly in that category, especially following their win on Tuesday night at South Carolina.
ALABAMA enters the game with a 14-9; 7-4 record. The Crimson Tide have lost twice to SEC opponents at home, to #6 Florida by 13 and to #76 Auburn by 5. ALABAMA’s most impressive win this season has been at #27 South Carolina this past Tuesday by 4 points in 4 overtimes.
ALABAMA enters this game with an ANE of 0.115 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0544 ppp (#54). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.287 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0808 ppp (#28).
The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 8 points, 76-68 at apace of 72 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.056 ppp and 0.944 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 7 points 77-70 at a pace of 71 possessions.
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