The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


March 5, 2014

No. 25 Kentucky survives Alabama 55-48


Dakari Johnson and James Young had nine points each for Kentucky.

"We shot (33) percent for the game and won. I'm happy," Calipari said. "We're still not all the way back. Guys were really tentative."

And though Kentucky faced an Alabama squad that had won just three of its last 10 coming in, the Crimson Tide's 73-57 win over rival Auburn on Saturday symbolized what can happen when everything is working. Levi Randolph's 24 points led the way and the junior guard had scored 70 points in his last three games.

However, SEC player of the year candidate Releford provided the Crimson Tide's spark in a low-scoring first half by recording nine of their first 13 points to quiet cheers for fan favorites Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson after the senior reserves each hit 3-pointers to open Kentucky's scoring.

The Wildcats regrouped to take a 21-20 lead on a free throw by Willie Cauley-Stein, an aspect that helped them trail just 28-25 at halftime despite 6-of-25 shooting. Kentucky took 15 free throws, three times as many as Alabama, making 11.

The Wildcats followed with the energy and ball movement Calipari had waited for all game at a time they seemed resigned to just stay close. Trailing 32-28, Randle made consecutive baskets, the Harrisons added consecutive 3-pointers and Johnson sandwiched dunks around a free throw by Young.

The big run over 4:57 provided Kentucky's biggest lead at 43-34. Alabama got within 48-47 on Randolph's jumper with 5:11 left but only added a free throw by Releford after that.

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