Even Kentucky head coach John Calipari was stunned by how packed the house was during the 77-75 upset victory, especially considering school hadn’t started back up yet and fans were traveling to California for the College Football Playoff national championship game.
The crowd wasn’t the only factor in Alabama’s victory over Kentucky. Here are the five biggest factor to the Tide’s upset over the Wildcats:
1. Tevin Mack
The University of Texas transfer made his presence known early in this game, scoring 20 points in the first half and going 6-for-6 from the 3-point line. Mack ended the game with 22 points and although the Wildcats shut him down in the second half, the damage had already been done. Mack served notice that he is dangerous when he is hot.
2. Kira Lewis
The 17-year-old picked up where Mack left off in the first half. Lewis made critical plays in the second half. His 3-point shots and free throws down the stretch were enough to hold off a furious Kentucky comeback.
3. The Tide Defense
While the Crimson Tide offense got it done, it was the defense that shut down the Wildcats in the second half. In the first half, Kentucky shot 50 percent from the field. That all changed in the final frame, with the Wildcats connecting on less than 30 percent from 3-point range. Bama also held forwards PJ Washington and transfer Reid Travis to a combined 27 points. Although Kentucky almost rallied to win this game, Alabama did just enough to hold them off.
4. Making Free Throws
To put it mildly, Alabama is not the greatest free throw shooting team, but Saturday, when the Tide needed to make free throws, they made them. Bama shot almost 77 percent from the line (13-for-17), which made a major difference for a team that usually struggles from the free throw line.
5. The Crowd
According to those who were there, the crowd was electric and it seemed to rattle the Wildcats who weren’t expecting such a huge crowd Saturday. It wasn’t the main factor in the game, but it was a factor, nonetheless.
The SEC thought it would only have to deal with Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn. The league may have just gotten tougher if Alabama is real.