Drought does in Cats at Bama

Kentucky's roller-coaster season experienced another hair-raising plunge Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum as the Wildcats blew a nine-point halftime lead and suffered through a brutal shooting drought that spanned both halves in a 59-55 loss to Alabama.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Kentucky's roller-coaster season experienced another hair-raising plunge Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum as the Wildcats blew a nine-point halftime lead and suffered through a brutal shooting drought that spanned both halves in a 59-55 loss to Alabama.

The Crimson Tide held Kentucky to only one field goal over a 15-minute, 16-second stretch from the 3:34 mark of the first half to the 8:18 mark of the second half. The Wildcats made only two of 18 shots during that span and never regained the lead.

"We took a step back," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose team appeared to be headed in the right direction after wins over Tennessee and Auburn last week. "This is a hard place to play."

Alabama (12-6, 4-1 SEC) shot only 37 percent and was outrebounded 44-32, but came up with the clutch plays down the stretch. Nick Jacobs scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the final nine minutes to help ensure the Crimson Tide would stay on top.

Kentucky (12-6, 3-2 SEC) pulled within one at the 1:20 mark with its best free throw shooter at the line in the form of Kyle Witjer, but the sophomore forward missed the front end of a one-plus-one situation. Jacobs answered with an offensive rebound and putback on the other end to give the Tide a three-point edge.

After a pair of Archie Goodwin missed shots on successive trips by the Wildcats, Alabama proceeded to knock down six of eight free throws to clinch only its third win over UK in the last 10 meetings.

It was the first time this season Kentucky lost a game when leading at halftime. The Cats entered the game 12-0 in those situations.

"We should have been up 15 at the half," a frustrated Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

"You have to give Alabama credit. They fought and had great confidence and they played to win. We played not to lose, which young guys do on the road at times."

Wiltjer led UK with 14 points and seven rebounds, but managed only three points after the break. He did not attempt a field goal and managed only two free throw attempts during the scoring drought.

Nerlens Noel added eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots for the Cats. It marked his fourth consecutive game with six or more rejections, but it wasn't enough to compensate for UK's other shortcomings.

"You had some players have bad performances," Calipari said. Most notably, guards Ryan Harrow and Goodwin, who combined to hit only five of 24 attempts from the field and committed four turnovers.

"Our guard play was not near (Alabama's) guard play. It just wasn't."

Trevor Releford, Levi Randolph and Trevor Lacey combined for 31 points in the Crimson Tide backcourt.

UK also saw forward Alex Poythress foul out with six points and five rebounds having played only 15 minutes on a night when it was already short-handed in the frontcourt minus injured center Willie Cauley-Stein.

NOTES:

• Kentucky leads the all-time series 102-37, but only 28-23 in games played in Tuscaloosa.

• The Wildcats suffered only their second loss in 73 games under Calipari when holding an opponent to 63 or fewer points. The only other loss came to Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four.

• UK had not lost a game it led by nine or more points at the half since a 79-76 loss to UAB on Dec. 15, 2007. The Cats led that game 40-28 at the break in Freedom Hall.

• The Wildcats return to action Saturday at Rupp Arena against LSU. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

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