UK Men's Basketball

Wall, Cousins lead Cats past Tide

DeMarcus Cousins posted his seventh straight double-double. And fellow freshman John Wall almost did him one better by flirting with a triple-double, not that he would have been proud of the achievement.

Wall's six turnovers marred an otherwise top-notch game as he led Kentucky to a 66-55 victory over Alabama Tuesday night.

Wall scored 22 points, the most he's tallied since getting a career-high 25 against Connecticut on Dec. 9. He also grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds, compensating for handing out only two assists, which equalled a career low.

But after Alabama closed within six, 51-45, and more than eight minutes remained to be played, Wall scored six straight points to ease the way to victory.

"At the end of the game, he basically took it over and put his team on his back," Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said of Wall. "You have to respect his talent, respect his leadership and respect his will."

Kentucky improved to 23-1 overall and 8-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama fell to 13-11 and 3-7 in the SEC.

Cousins, UK's only other player with double-digit points, scored 16 and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Freshman wing Tony Mitchell led Alabama with 13 points. JaMychal Green added 11 points. Senario Hillman chipped in 10.

Despite a slow start, Kentucky led 31-24 at halftime.

UK went 1-for-5 out of the gate and was sluggish on defense. Alabama made five of its first seven shots to twice take seven-point leads before the first timeout.

When DeAndre Liggins entered the game at the 16:12 mark, Kentucky picked up its intensity. Within the first 30 seconds, Liggins grabbed three offensive rebounds to provide a spark.

Alabama made only six of 24 shots in the half's final 16:08. But UK's 11 first-half turnovers prevented the Cats from enjoying more than a seven-point lead at intermission. Five came inside the first six minutes.

Wall had three of those turnovers, which got him a seat on the bench with 14:56 left.

When asked about the benching, Wall said, "I'm glad he did. I wasn't being strong with the ball."

Wall finished the half with five turnovers and no assists. "Pretty tough," he said. "I ask Coach 'Strick' (assistant Rod Strickland) every time I come out how many turnovers I have."

But Wall also helped turn the half in Kentucky's favor. UK took its first lead at 15-13 when Wall hit an NBA-length three-pointer from the left side.

No surprise that UK and Wall were at their best in transition. His driving layup while being fouled, part of an 11-point half, put the Cats ahead 24-19 with 3:41 left.

The lead reached its zenith (28-21) on another driving fast-break basket by Wall.

But Alabama hung around despite getting little from its two players with double-digit scoring averages in SEC play. Mikhail Torrance (14.4 ppg) didn't score until he drove to the basket with 7:21 left before halftime.

Green (13.1 ppg) had only two points until a dunk with 3:12 left.

Kentucky built its first double-digit lead early in the second half. A Cousins' putback of Patrick Patterson's missed three-pointer gave the Cats a 36-26 lead with 18:52 left.

Wall's first assist of the game helped Kentucky build its lead to 42-28 with 15:26 left. He started to drive, then pitched to Liggins standing alone on the right wing. Liggins swished the three-pointer.

After Alabama staged a brief rally, Cousins twice got the lead back to 14 points. He rebounded the second of his two missed free throws and pivoted for a score that made it 46-32 with 13:04 left.

Barely a minute later, Cousins got his double-double when Eric Bledsoe missed a left-handed layup. The putback gave Cousins 13 points and 10 rebounds with 11:47 left. He became the first UK player since Jim Andrews in 1972-73 to post double-doubles in seven straight games.

Alabama, which lost a fourth straight game for the first time this season, did not go quietly.

But with the lead at six, Wall hit two free throws, scooped in a layup under two defenders and hit a floater in the lane to make it 58-47 with 5:03 left, and the Cats held on from there.

UK Coach John Calipari said he ran plays for Wall down the stretch.

"He knows we're trying to get him baskets," Calipari said. "We've been working on how to get him involved."

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