Surging Kentucky, Alabama meet in pivotal SEC game

NCAA

The lead in the Southeastern Conference will be at stake when Alabama hosts Kentucky on Tuesday in Lexington.

The Crimson Tide (9-3, 4-0 SEC) and Wildcats (4-6, 3-0) are two of the three teams undefeated in league play, but South Carolina has played only one conference game, a home win over Texas A&M last week.

That the Tide and Wildcats are atop the standings even this early in the season is somewhat of a surprise since both teams struggled in nonconference play.

The Tide were only 5-3, while the Wildcats opened 1-6, their worst start to a season since the 1926-27 Wildcats lost eight of nine.

But both have feasted in conference play.

The Tide stretched their overall winning streak to five games with their 94-90 win over Auburn last weekend, while the Wildcats romped to a 76-58 victory at Florida for their third consecutive win.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he saw the turnaround coming for his typically young Wildcats despite their early struggles.

“I could always tell, slowly but surely, we were heading in the right direction,” he said. “Especially with the new year, people make resolutions to reset their minds and regroup themselves.”

The Wildcats placed four players in double figures and nearly had six in a balanced scoring effort. Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston Jr. led with 13 points each.

Keion Brooks Jr., playing his first game after missing the first nine with a left calf injury, scored 12 after gaining medical clearance late last week. Olivier Sarr had 10 points and Devin Askew and Isaiah Jackson added nine each for the Wildcats.

The Tide also beat the Gators last week before winning at Auburn.

Joshua Primo (22 points), Jordan Bruner (20) and Herbert Jones (19) combined for 61 points to lead the Tide’s first win in the Tigers’ arena since 2015. The back-and-forth affair featured 16 lead changes and nine ties.

“I think our guys are learning how to win close games,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “It’s something we struggled with last year, and now guys are making tough plays down the stretch.”

–Field Level Media

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