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January 21, 2012LEXINGTON, Ky. | The University of Alabama basketball team, looking to snap a two-game losing streak, put everything on the line Saturday against Kentucky.
Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, that primarily included Kentucky.
Alabama stayed close for the entire 40 minutes but could never get over the hump in a 77-71 loss at Rupp Arena. UK did not score a field goal in the final 6:57 of play but made 15 free throws in that stretch, including eight in the final minute, to hold off a determined effort.
The Wildcats ended the game with 40 free throw attempts, but Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant made no mention of the officiating and spoke more of missed opportunities.
"A lot is being made of our being physical, but we just played the way we play," Grant said. "They're a great transition team, and we didn't do a good job against it at times. We've got to do a better job of rebounding the ball. And we've got to figure out a way to do a better job of defending without fouling."
The Crimson Tide never led after the first three-plus minutes but never faded away.
The Crimson Tide trailed by just one point, 49-48, with 12:37 to play and was within two points twice in the final minute but could never make the single critical stop or crucial basket to stop UK. The Wildcats iced the game with eight free throws in the final minute, twice stretching a two-point lead to four points.
While Grant dismissed any notion of a moral victory as the Crimson Tide fell to 13-6 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference, UA did snap out of a spell of offensive lethargy, thanks to a strong inside effort by JaMychal Green (22 points, 12 rebounds) and a tremendous second half by Trevor Releford, who poured in 17 points after intermission.
"It's frustrating to lose," Green said. "But the last six minutes against Vandy and the way we played today, if we can keep doing that, I think we will be in good shape.
"We played with the passion you want to see but didn't make the plays we needed to make," Grant said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said the Wildcats (19-1, 5-0) were "fortunate" to hold on for the win.
"I can't explain the 14 1-footers and the free throws we missed in the first half," Calipari said. "It was a very physical game and we didn't respond to that very well, and until we do, teams will play us that way.
"I'm happy we won the game. We're not the team people think we are, but we're improving. The free throws we had to make, we made."
The Wildcats had a balanced offensive attack, including six different players in double figures. Terrence Jones had 15 points, while freshman Anthony Davis added 11 points (though he made just two of 10 shots) and nine rebounds.
"They were very physical with Anthony," Calipari said. "Their plan was to keep a hip on him 24/7. They even had a hip on him in the postgame handshake."
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or at 205-722-0225.