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Kentucky eliminates Alabama in SEC basketball tournament

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Alabama men’s basketball team was eliminated from the SEC Tournament with a 79-74 semifinal loss to top-seeded Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in Bridgestone Arena. The Tide will now await its postseason fate to be announced Sunday evening.

Redshirt freshman Dazon Ingram led Alabama with 17 points before fouling out of the contest in the final two minutes. Freshman Braxton Key, who also reached double figures with 11 points, and junior Riley Norris led the team with six rebounds each.

“First of all, I'm awfully proud of our team,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “We had a tough second half. We battled, we fought. We put on our hard hat and came to play and there was no surrender. We battled all the way to the very end. Give Kentucky credit. They made some big shots. Coach (John) Calipari does a nice job with his team, and getting so many new guys every year, they do a great job of representing the SEC both in conference and non-conference in the tournament.

“I wouldn't trade my guys for anybody. They have battled and fought. We've had some ups and downs in non-conference, conference, but they kept on returning to practice and watching videos and working on their games and trying to get better so that when we got to this point in the SEC Tournament, we could win a few games and have a chance to win the third one.”

The Tide (19-14 overall, 10-8 in the SEC) took the lead immediately out of halftime with the first two baskets of the half giving it a 36-33 lead, but that would be the final time Alabama led in the game. The teams traded points in the first five minutes and were tied 40-40 with 15:34 to play. The Wildcats sparked an 11-2 run that spanned three and half minutes to take a 51-42 lead, their largest of the game. Alabama responded with a 15-7 spurt that cut the lead to one point, down 58-57.

The Tide had a chance to tie the game, trailing 64-61 with 3:30 on the clock and Key coming to the line for three free throws, but he was able to make one of his attempts. The Wildcats took control from there. extending their lead to as many as eight points. Alabama battled back, pulling within four points twice, but Kentucky hit 9-of-11 free throws in the final 1:13 to seize the victory.

Alabama started strong in the first half scoring 14 of the first 19 points. The Tide took its largest lead of the game, 17-7, with 13:28 on the clock in the first half, but Kentucky responded with a 22-5 run and took a 29-22 lead with five minutes left in the half. Alabama used a 10-4 run to pull within one point at halftime.

For the game, Alabama shot 45 percent compared to Kentucky’s 52 percent from the field. The Tide outrebounded the Wildcats, 33-28, and led in bench points (22-9), second-chance points (15-12), points off turnovers (15-12) and points in the paint (46-24), but it was not enough to overcome the Kentucky.

The Wildcats were led by freshmen De’Aaron Fox (28 points) and Malik Monk (20 points) on the night. Kentucky was able to score 27 points from the free throw line as the Tide was forced to foul in the final minutes. Freshman Edrice Adebayo finished with a game-high nine rebounds.

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