UK Men's Basketball

Cats turn Tide with persistence

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Despite his surreal shooting and scoring this season, Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks remains a realist.

"Stuff is not always going to go our way like peaches and cream," he said on Saturday.

Vinegar and turpentine seemed more like it for Kentucky this day as problems mounted against a wounded Alabama team looking for a redemptive victory.

■ Foul trouble and Alabama's defense limited All-America candidate Patrick Patterson to a season-low six points.

■ UK committed 23 turnovers (its most in more than a month).

■ Then came an emotional haymaker at halftime when Ramon Harris fainted and had to be taken to a local hospital. Coach Billy Gillispie missed the first minute of the second half as he stayed with Harris.

Yet Kentucky won 61-51.

"Our guys were as tough as you can possibly be at this point of the season," Gillispie said.

Meeks, who led UK with 27 points, took care of the scoring. With their customary solid defense, the Cats were practically assured a fifth victory without a loss in the Southeastern Conference.

"It says a lot," Meeks said of UK's perseverance. "It shows how much we're maturing as a team. We just had to grind it out and find a way to win it."

Meeks carried the load in a game that saw all other players struggle to score. The most glaring example was Alabama point guard Mikhail Torrance, who had averaged 22.7 points in his previous three Southeastern Conference games but missed all eight of his shots in a scoreless performance.

"We did enough defensively," said Alabama's embattled coach, Mark Gottfried. The Tide have been one of the poorest defensive teams in the SEC.

Kentucky just did more. Alabama shot a season-worst 29.3 percent and scored its fewest points since a 45-42 win at Georgia in 2004.

The Tide's two players with double-digit scoring averages, Alonzo Gee and Senario Hillman, made six of 22 shots.

"We never seemed to get our offense in a real good rhythm," Gottfried said. "... We didn't make enough shots, and we didn't get enough good shots."

Gillispie noted the importance of keeping Alabama out of transition and out of the lane. The Tide had 18 layups in each of their previous three games, he said, but didn't score a fast-break point.

"Our guys played to the scouting report," the UK coach said. "... We really defended the ball well for the most part. We were in the passing lanes, and we were in help position most of the time. That usually gives you a pretty good chance to be successful."

It didn't come easy. Kentucky, which improved to 16-4 overall, trailed at halftime for the first time against an SEC team. Anthony Brock's three-pointer at the buzzer put Alabama ahead 25-19. It was the 5-foot-9 transfer's first three since Nov. 19.

Except for Meeks, Kentucky struggled to score throughout the first half. The Cats made eight of 26 shots in its lowest-scoring period since trailing West Virginia 26-16 at intermission on Nov. 29. Meeks made five of eight first-half shots in what's become his typically stellar contribution. For the game, he also tied a career high with nine rebounds, made three steals and hounded Hillman (who made three of 12 shots).

With Patterson getting off only six shots (his fewest since taking four against Virginia Military Institute), Kentucky needed Meeks to be Meeks.

With Gillispie staying in the locker room with Harris, Kentucky opened the second half well. Meeks scored five of the first seven points to draw the Cats within one, 27-26, at the 17:44 mark.

UK got a huge break two minutes later. Torrance appeared to get knocked to the floor by Josh Harrellson on a fast-break layup attempt.

When Alabama protested the noncall, it was hit with a technical foul. Meeks made both free throws to draw UK to 30-28 with 15:23 left. That gave Meeks 18 of UK's first 28 points.

Patterson picked up his third and fourth fouls in a 12-second span. He went to the bench with 16:25 left.

Momentum shifted to Kentucky when Patterson re-entered the game with 6:18 left and the score tied at 45. Patterson beat his man downcourt for back-to-back layups.

That started an 8-0 run that gave Kentucky a 51-45 lead to nurse through the final 4:33.

SCHEDULE, RESULTS

Kentucky (16-4, 5-0 SEC)

(All times Eastern and p.m.)

Date Opponent Time/Result

Nov. 14 VA. MILITARY INSTITUTE L, 111-103

Nov. 18 at North Carolina L, 77-58

Nov. 22 a-DELAWARE STATE W, 71-42

Nov. 24 a-LONGWOOD W, 91-57

Nov. 28 b-Kansas State W, 74-72

Nov. 29 b-West Virginia W, 54-43

Dec. 3 LAMAR W, 103-61

Dec. 6 MIAMI L, 73-67

Dec. 7 MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE W, 88-65

Dec. 13 INDIANA W, 72-54

Dec. 20 c-Appalachian State W, 93-69

Dec. 22 TENNESSEE STATE W, 102-58

Dec. 27 FLORIDA ATLANTIC W, 76-69

Dec. 29 CENTRAL MICHIGAN W, 84-52

Jan. 4 at Louisville L, 74-71

Jan. 10 VANDERBILT W, 70-60

Jan. 13 at Tennessee W, 90-72

Jan. 18 at Georgia W, 68-45

Jan. 21 AUBURN W, 73-64

Jan. 24 at Alabama W, 61-51

Jan. 27 at Mississippi 7

Jan. 31 SOUTH CAROLINA 3

Feb. 3 MISSISSIPPI STATE 7

Feb. 10 FLORIDA 9

Feb. 14 at Arkansas 1

Feb. 17 at Vanderbilt 9

Feb. 21 TENNESSEE 1

Feb. 25 at South Carolina 7

Feb. 28 LOUISIANA STATE 4

March 4 GEORGIA 8

March 7 at Florida 2

Mar. 12-15 d-SEC Tournament TBA

a-first two games of Las Vegas Invitational; b-Las Vegas Invitational; c-at Louisville; d-at Tampa, Fla.

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