By: Caden Johnson
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – On Saturday, the preseason SEC champion Kentucky Wildcats came into town to take on Alabama. That preseason ranking meant nothing to the Tide.
Alabama dominated this one start to finish, never trailing in their 78-52 win over the Wildcats. The 26 point win is the largest in school history against Kentucky.
The large margin of victory can be credited mostly to the strong defensive effort of the Tide as well as a poor shooting performance from Kentucky. The Wildcats converted on just 21 of their 73 shot attempts for a pitiful 28.8%. Alabama forced 11 turnovers, nine coming from steals.
Ohio transfer Mark Sears accounted for an astounding six of those steals. Sears racked up takeaways in the post when providing help down low on Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe.
Stopping Tshiebwe, the reigning national player of the year, was absolutely crucial for the Tide today. Alabama big man Charles Bediako stepped up to the challenge arguably better than anyone else has throughout all of Tshiebwe’s time at Kentucky.
“The game plan for (Tshiebwe) was all five guys. It’s not just me. It was going to take all five of us to stop him and we did a great job today,” Bediako said.
Bediako got on the board early, scoring six of his nine points in the first five minutes. The seven footer finished with nine points, six rebounds and two blocks. Tshiebwe, who averages around 17 points and 14 rebounds per game, finished with just four points and six boards shooting just one for seven from the floor.
Even with the stellar defensive performance, the Tide might have been just as impressive offensively. Alabama made 26 of their 54 shot attempts for a solid 48%. The Tide also knocked down eight threes on 22 attempts from beyond the arc. Brandon Miller led the way for the Tide with 19 points. Sears contributed with 14 and four assists, and Jahvon Quinerly came off the bench for 12.
Alabama improves to a 13-2 record on the year and a perfect record of 3-0 in SEC play with the win.
“We’re trying to put a product and a program out there that everyone can support, and they supported today. I want to thank them for that,” Coach Nate Oats said, thanking the over 13 thousand in attendance.
Not only is the Tide gaining respect locally, they’re also continuing to gain respect nationally. Alabama could find a way back into the top five soon and look like they have all the tools to make a deep tournament run in March.
The Crimson Tide will be back in action on Wednesday, when they travel to play Arkansas in what will be their toughest SEC matchup of the year so far.