Walker, Bennett Key Big NCAA Win
UK Storms Past Alabama Fourth Time
Thanks to a well-rounded scoring attack, Kentucky employed four players in double figures enroute to scoring a 68-63 victory over Alabama in the NCAA Southeast Regional semi-finals Thursday in Atlanta.
Kenny Walker paved the way with 22 points, but got ample help from Winston Bennett, Ed Davender and James Blackmon who scored 14, 13 and 11 points respectively.
The victory was Kentucky's fourth straight over the Crimson Tide this season and came on the heels of a three-point victory in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference at Lexington's Rupp Arena.
As had been the case so many times this season, defense was again the key to UK's success. This time, the Cats held 'Bama to a 42.6 shooting percentage and that pretty much told the story.
"I thought the big key to this basketball game, and it's been that way almost every time we win, was our defense," said UK coach Eddie Sutton. "Our defense was solid." Sutton, though, pointed out that the Cats could have made the win a much easier
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task if they could have hit their free throws, a part of the UK game which suffered terribly during the NCAA tourney. In three of UK's four games, the Cats hit under 68 percent from the line.
Poor Free Throw Shooting Hurt UK - Sutton
"Our team was solid defensively, but we made it hard on ourselves when we weren't able to convert free throws," added Sutton.
The Cats almost let 'Bama back in the game during the final three minutes when UK missed five of its last six free throws, including three bonus situations.
Although Alabama won the battle of the boards, it was Kentucky which claimed the all-important offensive rebounds and putbacks which enabled the Cats to skin the Tide a fourth straight time this season.
Most of the first half was played on even terms although each club experienced a strong rally.
With Kentucky nursing a 20-15 lead at the 10:41 mark on Ed Davender's jumper, the Cats took a brief vacation.
Over the next three and half minutes, Alabama outscored the Cats 8-0 and took a 23-20 advantage, on baskets from Terry Coner, Jim Farmer, James Jackson and Derrick McKey.
Enough was enough for Eddie Sutton who called a timeout to halt the rally. At that point, 'Bama was hitting a blazing 55.6 percent from the field on 10 of 18.
Kentucky Goes On A 12-0 Streak
Kentucky, though, went on a tear of its own over the next five minutes and sprinted out to a 32-23 lead with a 12-0 spurt.
Walker scored half of the dozen points while Winston Bennett scored a couple field goals and James Blackmon put the icing on the cake with a layup at 2:28 before Alabama's
Jenkins Battles Farmer
Wimp Sanderson could signal for a timeout.
The Tide refused to quit and came right back to narrow the deficit to four points (32-28) at the halfway point and even had one chance to cut the lead to two.
Halftime stats indicated it would be another buzzer beater for the two Southeastern Conference powers. While Kentucky was hitting at 53.6 percent from the field, Alabama was connecting on 48.1 percent. But the Tide outrebounded UK 15-13. It was that tight a game.
Perhaps the key to the first half was Kentucky's ability to contain the terrific inside 'Bama game of Buck Johnson and Derrick McKey below their season averages. The couple had been held to seven of 15 shooting from the field, no free throws and only eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, UK's counterparts were scoring 18 points on eight of 14 from the and eight rebounds.
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