Kentucky (12-5) at Alabama (11-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, January 22, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coleman Coliseum (15,316) -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Kentucky 9-2, Alabama 7-3. Away Record: UK 2-2, Kentucky 2-3. Neutral Record: Kentucky 1-1, Alabama 2-0. Conference Record: Kentucky 3-1, Alabama 3-1. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 102-36.
GAME NOTES: A pair of 3-1 squads in the SEC will meet at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night, as the Alabama Crimson Tide entertain the Kentucky Wildcats.
After falling out of the Top-25 following a No. 3 preseason ranking, Kentucky is slowly but surely rebuilding its resume', as it has claimed victories in four of its last five games to climb to 12-5. Following a disappointing 83-71 home defeat at the hands of Texas A&M on Jan. 12, the Wildcats have won back- to-back games over Tennessee (75-65) and Auburn (75-53).
Alabama has also hit its stride of late. After a 6-0 start, the Tide went on to lose six of their next eight, but since that slide has bounced back with three consecutive SEC victories, culminating in a thrilling 50-49 triumph over Texas A&M on Saturday.
Kentucky has won seven of the last eight matchups with Alabama to take a commanding 102-36 lead in the all-time series.
Kentucky was fantastic at both ends of the floor in its latest game, shooting 54.5 percent from the field while holding Auburn to less than 35 percent as it pulled away after halftime to post the 22-point win. Providing a spark off the bench was Kyle Wiltjer with 17 points on 6-of-13 from the field (3-of-6 from 3-point range). Nerlens Noel tallied 10 points and nine rebounds, and for the fourth time this season he put up a career-high in blocks with seven. Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow all scored 12 points, while Harrow also dished out eight assists. Although Goodwin (15.0 ppg) is the team's leading scorer, Noel is arguably the biggest difference-maker. The freshman is already considered one of the best defensive players in the country, ranking fourth nationally in blocks (4.1 bpg) and 10th in steals (2.6 spg), and he chips in 10.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and a .587 field goal percentage for good measure. Poythress (13.1, 6.4 ppg) is also incredibly efficient from the floor (.620), and Wiltjer (11.3 ppg) and Harrow (10.4 ppg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers. The Wildcats, who score 77.1 ppg and allow just 61.7 ppg to their opponents, will likely be without 7-foot forward Willie Cauley-Stein (7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 spg), who's recovering from minor knee surgery.
In a back-and-forth contest over the weekend, Alabama trailed Texas A&M, 49-48, in the final minute before Trevor Lacey drilled a jumper with nine seconds to go to give the Tide a one-point victory. The defensive struggle saw Alabama shoot a meager 18-of-41 from the field and 8-of-15 from the foul line, but it got just enough offense to pull out the win thanks to impressive efforts from Trevor Releford (15 points) and Lacey (14 points, six rebounds, six assists). On the season, Releford is the SEC's sixth-leading scorer with 16.2 ppg thanks in large part to his outstanding .850 free throw percentage. Lacey has been an impressive second option, shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range en route to 12.5 ppg, while Rodney Cooper adds 11.6 ppg to the mix. As a team, the Tide make their field goals at a 45.2 percent clip, averaging 65.5 ppg as a result, but the biggest reason for their success has been their outstanding scoring defense, which ranks second in the SEC in yielding just 59.1 ppg.
Alabama has been a tough draw, especially on its home floor, and its defensive effort is sure to slow down the Wildcats' high-powered attack, but UK appears to finally be playing up to its expectations and its supremely talented cast should be able to triumph on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 68, Alabama 63
01/22 10:32:18 ET