NASHVILLE — Kentucky goes into Saturday's game against Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals ranked fourth in the nation in rebound margin. That's No. 4 with an anchor, not a bullet.
When UK played the Vols two weekends ago, the Cats led the nation.
The slide to a No. 4 in rebound margin did not include Alabama hammering the Cats 45-33 on the board Friday. The game marked the third straight game the opponent outrebounded UK, and the fourth time in the last six games.
"I'm trying to convince this young team of 19-year-olds that either you want it more than they do or they want it more than you do," UK Coach John Calipari said. "And whoever's in that mode in this tournament, or the next one, is going to win."
Despite Kentucky's size and statistical rebound dominance, Alabama came into Friday's game saying it could compete on the boards.
"We had 14 offensive rebounds at their place," guard Mikhail Torrance said of Alabama's 66-55 loss in Rupp Arena on Feb. 9. "So we knew we could do it."
Alabama grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, the most any UK opponent has had this season. The overall margin marked Kentucky's most lopsided rebound beating since March 9, 2008 when Florida enjoyed a 35-23 advantage.
UK's leading rebounder, DeMarcus Cousins, failed to reach double-digit rebounds for a third straight game. That hadn't happened since November games against Rider, Cleveland State and Stanford.
"I'm getting double-teamed," Cousins said. "I can't get a lot of boards like I usually do."
Calipari made rebounding sound like a simple matter of effort. "You can make whatever excuse you want, or you just say they're beating us to ball," he said. "They want it more than we do."
UK made only two shots from outside the lane: the team's only three-pointer (by Darnell Dodson with 1.8 seconds left in the first half) and a jumper by Eric Bledsoe from between the foul line and the top of the key with 8:18 left in the second half.
Other than John Wall's floater in the lane with 4:13 left in the first half, the Cats made no other shots other than dunks, layups or putbacks.
The 1-for-13 three-point shooting marked the program's fewest treys in exactly one calendar year. UK made one of 10 three-point shots against Ole Miss on March 12, 2009. The Cats won that game, too, 71-58.
Here's another stat: UK's 7.7-percent three-point accuracy was the program's worst since making two of 27 attempts (7.4 percent) in a 79-53 loss at Indiana on Dec. 10, 2005.
"If we make threes, we'll win pretty easily," Calipari said. "If we don't make threes, we want to win anyway. So there's no pressure on us to make threes."
Patrick Patterson blamed himself for UK's rebounding woes after he grabbed four in 36 minutes against Alabama.
"Lack of effort on my part," he said. "I can understand my teammates not stepping up and doing it because I'm not."
Patterson said his favorite opponents are Florida and Tennessee. Florida because he almost signed with the Gators, and Tennessee because of the rivalry.
"The trash talking and the physicality of the game," he said. "Emotions are flying left and right."
UT big man Brian Williams said he looked forward to the challenge of facing Cousins and Patterson, whom he called "the most dominant 4-5 tandem in the SEC."
Williams also noted the many UK fans here.
"Even though they brought the whole state with them, it's going to be fun," he said. " ... It's really our 10 against their 20,000."
Cousins: 'I'm fine'
Cousins' seven points marked a season-high third straight game without reaching double figures. He's made seven of 15 shots and attempted only 12 free throws in that span.
Although he looked dour when he sat on the bench, Cousins said he was not discouraged. "I"m fine," he said before telling reporters, "Stop worrying about me. Let's just get to the next game."
Mississippi State's victory over Florida was the Western Division's first win against the Eastern Division's top four teams this season, improving the West's mark to 1-28. ... Former Coach Joe B. Hall was UK's designated "Legend" at the tournament. He wore a bandage on his right cheek, the result of a dermatological procedure, when he went to center court to be acknowledged at halftime.