Cats use Firecracker-like energy to beat Alabama 81-71

Vicky Graff Photo


Maybe Kentucky just needs to bring the Firecrackers, a high performance jump rope team from Cincinnati, back at Rupp Arena more often.

The Wildcats snapped a four-game losing streak — and remained unbeaten with the Firecrackers at Rupp Arena — by making the plays at the end to beat Alabama 81-71.

Kentucky forced five Alabama turnovers in the final three minutes — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had three steals — after Alabama cut the lead to 69-67 with 3 minutes, 34 seconds to go.

“Kentucky played an outstanding game, especially with their offensive rebounds. We knew we had to do a great job on the boards and this was not our best night on the boards and they made us pay the price for it,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “We played some pretty good defense. We just couldn’t get the rebound. If we had, we could have got out in transition.”

“We gave away some games this year. We had leads late and just gave the game away. We have to start taking games from people. That means desperation. This was a good one,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Hopefully it makes them feel better but it better not make them arrogant.”

It wasn’t just that the Cats won, it was the way they won. For most of the season, UK fans have not been happy with the team’s effort. Same for Calipari. Today the Cats may not have always played well, but the effort was not a problem 95 percent of the time.

Quade Green seemed to play harder on defense than he had all season, especially off the ball. He also was efficient on offense with 5-for-6 shooting for 12 points to go with four assists and two rebounds. And get this — he had no turnovers in 31 minutes.

“He was good,” Calipari said.

Jarred Vanderbilt didn’t let missing 2-foot shots deter his effort. He finished with 11 points and got two key baskets late. He also had nine rebounds and two blocked shots.

“Their utility guy was really good. He either gets the rebound or keeps it alive,” Johnson said.

“Jarred is a beast. There are some shots you took, just don’t shoot them. Everything else you are doing is great,” Calipari said. “He’s a willing passer.”

P.J. Washington overcame a horrendous start to get some key points in the second half when he had 10 of his 16 points. He also had five rebounds to help offset five turnovers, including four in the first half.

“Early on he turned it over and fumbled the ball,” Calipari said. “But when the game got in the balance, P.J. made every play he was supposed to make. Even if he is playing poorly, I have all the faith in the world to go to him and that’s what we did.”

Knox had all 13 of his points in the second half. He also got five rebounds.

Gilgeous-Alexander was just 2-for-10 from the field and had only six points. But he had those three steals along with four rebounds and four assists.

“He came up with balls,” Calipari said. “There were other plays where he could have made better decisions, but he’s working hard.”

Kentucky dominated the rebounding 44-27 and had 20 offensive rebounds that turned in 20 second-chance points. Vanderbilt had five offensive boards among his nine rebounds.

“They just outworked us on the boards. They were the hungrier team it seemed,” Alabama’s Donta Hall said.

The Crimson Tide missed 18 of 24 3-point shots. Alabama had four players in double figures but got outscored 39-19 by the Kentucky bench.

“Give them credit. They just played like a hungry team,” Johnson said. “They are still a dangerous team. When you have the length and size they have, it’s just a matter of whether they can make some 3’s. This is a tough team. Sometimes you get desperate. When you have lost four in a row and play in this environment, you get desperate.”


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  1. That was a very good all around effort and very proud of these guys for finally putting one together. I hope it gives them confidence to repeat the process, and I also wish that Wenyan would stop trying to impersonate a 3 pt. shooter. This was a very strong effort that I wasn’t sure these guys had in them.

    1. Mike, Dailo made some huge shots I thought they played better without him. Maybe this will get him thinking got to play smart

    2. ROFLMAO; Revisionist history. Yes mike yes you were sure that they didn’t have it in them. As we all have read you type over and over and over and over and over and over you get my point AGAIN.

  2. I love the way coach Cal made his post game remarks after the game. He was honest about the way this team is and himself to the matter.Great win go cats

  3. GO BIG BLUE !

    1. I thought you had given up and weren’t going to watch any more. LOL. I guess the band wagon just showed up at your door. Let’s see how long it takes for you to jump off.

  4. Much better effort. Liked the way Knox had like 3 rebounds on one play because he didn’t quit. He is a much better player when he plays with energy. Gabriel hits just enough 3’s to make him think he is a 3 pt shooter, which he is not. Needs to stop taking those until he gets better at it, but had good effort on defense. I think Diallo sees his NBA stock going in the tank and is pressing way too much. He needs to learn to let the game come to him and he will be much better off. Liked our inside game from Richards and Washington. I also like have Green and Alexander on the court together, gives you a slasher and a pretty good shooter. Now, they need to grow from this one.

  5. WOW. THE SKY IS ACTUALLY NOT FALLING. Wow it is amazing what one win does. Are we a final 4 team? Not sure we ever were. Have we not living up to the HYPE? DAH(don’t get me started on a system that ranks the youngest team in the modern era as a top 10 team and a preseason 1 seed). Set up to fail much? But have the coaches and players earned the attacks on their character and ability that has taken over my favorite site? HELL NO ! ! ! Cal has earned the right to expect more loyalty. Anyone who has raised children or coached knows youth is always an issue. I have two boys. One who got it earlier than the other. LOVE THEM BOTH THE SAME. No team is the same but they all deserve our best because they chose UK. As fans and Americans we chose our own path. I choose to ALWAYS cheer on the CATS Win Lose or Draw. Good season or NIT 1st round loss. No matter what happens this season like the 14 previous season I FOR ONE WILL BE AT THE BBM CAMP OUT TO SUPPORT MY COACH AND MY TEAM. I will continue to attend at least two FB and BB games a season. And my family and I will always have the memory of a last minute dash to NYC to see a UK team that struggled all year beat UNC for a trip to the final 4.


    1. @UKFMLY, you are on point with your comments and I owe BBN an apology for some of my comments this past week regarding the play of some of our players. I too love my Wildcats dearly and sometimes I get carried away when we lose. But the reality of the matter is we are so lucky to have Coach Cal leading our team. I will always bleed blue for Kentucky Wildcats!!

  6. Pardon me, BUT …
    Where did I say I watched?

  7. Wow, this is sounding like Republicans and Democrats…the other guys views are always wrong! This was a great win for the Cats and also a very much needed win. The criticisms of this team, which has been justified, may have been what brought the effort out in this game. Effort and attitude have been the missing links for this team and both areas showed vast improvement in this win. There are four games left. The Ole Miss game is the only certain win. The other 3 will be determined by the effort and attitude that this team brings to those games. I hope they will choose to match or better this performance. If they do and continue to do so, they could make a very serious run at winning the SEC tournament…maybe win 2 or 3 games in the Big Dance. Without the same attitude and effort, they could end up in the NIT. I show appreciation for good effort and attitude regardless of the outcome, but bad effort and attitude deserves to be called out. This team has the choice of which they prefer, lets see what they choose.

  8. @Bluebleeder12
    great observation

  9. Very well said, Bluebleeder12.
    Players that want to be their best, don’t mind being called out when it is true. They admit it and correct it. I don’t believe there has been much said on here that Cal has not said or inferred to the players himself. I also agree with your comment on effort. I will always support and cheer a team or player giving effort. I like winning, but I understand a lose when the other team or player is just better on that night. I don’t care if you have a D or an R in front of your name, because I will look at what you have done. Same with UK players. I don’t close my eyes and cheer just because you play for UK. I understand mistakes, because that is where growth occurs, but don’t let your mistakes become your norm. I want to see effort and growth, just as I want to see in my own kids. I will call you out when there is a lack of effort or desire, and I will cheer when you are striving to grow and improve. That’s life.

  10. The Arkansas game will answer a lot of questions.

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