After securing its first back-to-back tournament wins in 15 years, Alabama gave top-seeded Kentucky everything it could muster Saturday in a 79-74 loss to the Wildcats in the SEC semifinals.
"The first game is always a hard one, especially when you're talking a good team, and, you know, Mark (Fox) did just an unbelievable job all year", Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "The best I've seen them all all year".
"When you smell blood, just keep attacking". Kornet and frontcourt mate Jeff Roberson (11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds) each had 12 points in the Commodores' win at Arkansas a month ago.
The Dores started slow in the first half as Arkansas jumped out to a 9-point lead.
Although Adebayo, Monk and Fox provided a bulk of the scoring, it was Kentucky's senior trio of Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder that provided some big moments in the finale, especially during the first half. "I mean, I've just got to learn from that". SEC Freshman of the Year Malik Monk and fellow freshman Bam Adebayo added 17 points apiece for Kentucky, which shot 48.2 from the floor and made all six of its free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
The Wildcats will face the Razorbacks for the second time in three seasons in pursuit of their third consecutive SEC title. Against Arkansas Hawkins was more aggressive in shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-5 from three for a career-high 14 points, but his impact for United Kingdom was still the same. But the Crimson Tide couldn't get the basket when needed to overcome the Wildcats, who came through in the clutch for their 10th straight win. "They made some big shots".
The University of Kentucky will enter the NCAA Tournament with a head of steam, and a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.
"What a tremendous effort", Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.
"I feel like we can play with anyone in the country and whatever postseason tournament we get in, we will be ready", said guard Dazon Ingram. We're close. We talk a lot of trash, but we're still going to be friends after that.
Briscoe said starting the game fast was a "major focus" for the Wildcats leading up to the contest. They will play eighth-ranked Kentucky, a 79-74 victor over Alabama, for the second time in three years Sunday. Dusty Hannahs is averaging 14.6 points and 1.8 rebounds while Daryl Macon is averaging 13.3 points and 2.3 assists.
Saturday was the first time Alabama has allowed an opponent to score more than 60 points in the last eight games. They've now won 11 in-a-row and are hot at the right time heading into the tournament.
No. 5 seed Alabama, No. 6 seed Ole Miss and No. 7 seed Vanderbilt all took care of business, each winning their second-round games by 12 points or more.