The Crimson Tide was chasing history when it walked into Bridgestone Arena on Friday morning -or so it thought.
As it turned out, its past was the one thing it couldn’t escape in Kentucky’s 79-74 victory.
“This is not a funeral. I’m not down on my guys. I absolutely love them and they poured their hearts out,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “There’s no moral victories, but when you looked at both teams tonight we were right there with them under three minutes.”
Alabama freshman Braxton Key was trying to get a shot up from behind the arc before the buzzer when a foul sent him to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game up with 3:30 left to play in the SEC Tournament Semifinal game against the top seeded Wildcats.
The No. 5 seed Crimson Tide had already won two SEC Tournament games for the first time since 2002. Now it was looking to defeat Kentucky in the tournament for the third time in 17 meetings to advance to the program’s first SEC Championship game since 2002.
Key’s first shot from the line bounced off the front end of the rim then the back before it just bounced harmlessly away. The second bounced off the mark to the left before the freshman was able to watch the third one finally fall through hoop.
“The game could have easily been tied or we could have been up by one if a couple of free throws [were good] here and there, maybe a layup that we can make there,” Johnson said. “[There was] one 3 where we were out of position. Make those plays and maybe we are going to the last minute of the game with a one point lead and have an opportunity to win.”
Instead, the Wildcats (28-5, 16-2 SEC) sent the Crimson Tide packing for the second straight season.
It was a tough blow for a team that ultimately finished the day 15 of 20 from the line for an overall finish 47 of 67 (70.1 percent) from the line during its tournament run- a remarkable showing for a team that finished above 70 percent in seven of its 30 regular season games.
“This focus, this mindset that we’ve had the last three days could have very well won us three, four, five more games this year had we matured a little sooner, and we all could go and pick out a game,” Johnson said.
This post will be updated.*
Source:: The Crimson White Sports