TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Coleman Coliseum was packed and jacked Saturday. Fan lines stretched around the entire front of the home of Alabama basketball. Every seat was sold for the first time since, well, the last time the Kentucky Wildcats came to town back in 2013.
After all, the hosts don't get too many chances to upset the No. 1 team in the nation, especially a Kentucky team that struggled mightily just a week ago on the road, needing two overtimes to squeeze out a victory at Texas A&M.
Then came the opening tip, and a short time later you could hear a pin drop as Kentucky's shots started to drop. And drop. And drop. One after the other.
Then Coleman grew loud again, with chants of "Go Big Blue."
"It gets you juiced," said Willie Cauley-Stein after the top-ranked Cats crushed the Crimson Tide 70-48 before 15,383 mixed red and blue.
The Cats were juiced, all right. They scored on their first seven possessions, capped by a Devin Booker three-pointer. After Dakari Johnson jammed home a pass from Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis swished another three-pointer, the Cats were up 21-9 and the fired-up Bama fans slumped back into their seats.
"I actually love the environment," Booker said. "It started with the Louisville game. It was the first road game for us and it was crazy, people bad-mouthing us. It really just brings the best out of us."
That wasn't the case last Saturday when UK needed 10 extra minutes to get past Texas A&M in College Station. After that 70-64 squeaker, John Calipari said, "We're just not a very good team right now."
Plus, this Tuscaloosa trip was expected to be a much tougher test. Anthony Grant's team had not lost at home. It appeared capable of, if not upsetting the Cats, at least playing with them.
Never happened. Alabama was too small. Kentucky was too tall, too long and too talented. UK smartly played inside-out — "I told them if you don't throw it to the post, you're coming out," Calipari said — as great interior passing led to open perimeter shots. The visitors took 17 threes. They made eight.
Ulis was 3-for-4 from behind the line. Booker was 3-for-6. Over his last seven games, Booker is 20-for-28 from three-point range.
"The crowd's into you, they're bad-mouthing you, they're doing all this stuff," said Cauley-Stein. "To be able to shoot like that is remarkable to me."
As always, it's a different deal when the Cats take their show on the road. They draw in two different directions. The home crowd turns out to (a) see the nation's No. 1 team play and (b) hope the home five can pull off the upset. You know, everybody's Super Bowl.
Then there's the visiting crowd, which in the case of the Big Blue Nation means a significant portion of the crowd that finds its way into enemy territory. It's significantly loud, too.
"Best fans in America," Booker said. "That's not just a biased statement. I really believe that. I've seen a lot of fan bases. I've been everywhere. All you see is the blue in there when you first get in. They get here before all the other fans."
Kentucky's fans are the first to come and the last to leave. They gather as close as they can to the floor to snap camera phone pictures during warm-ups. (Don't forget the selfies.) They stick around to chant "Go Big Blue" at the end. That's the Big Blue Nation's victory cigar.
"They're going everywhere you go," Cauley-Stein said. "You can go all the way to California and you're going to have probably half the fans there. They're crazy. I love them. That's why it's so fun playing here."
It was no fun for the home team. By the second half's 7:53 TV timeout, the Crimson followers started heading home to thumb through their football recruiting guides. In the final minute, one apparently frustrated Tide backer tossed a bottle onto the floor. Sort of summed up the afternoon.
"We're a good team," said Calipari. "I've got good players."
That's the best way to travel.