The Kentucky players had varying thoughts on the physical play of Alabama, following Kentucky’s 77-71 win over the Tide on Saturday.
Doron Lamb said, “It was physical, but it wasn’t that physical.”
Lamb, a guard, had a very efficient day offensively, hitting five of his eight field goal attempts, and both his attempts from the charity stripe, scored 14 points for the Wildcats balanced offensive attack.
Forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis had a slightly different view of physicality of the game.
That view could be different because the physical play of Alabama comes from their frontcourt.
Kidd-Gilchrist, who spent much of the game in foul trouble, said, “It was real physical. Their big men were stronger than ours, but we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Foul trouble limited Kidd-Gilchrist to 23 minutes of play, but he was effective during the 23 minutes of action. He scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds before fouling out.
Jones admitted that the physical play affected his game, especially early.
Jones said, “I think it did in the first half when it came to us making one-footers and low post shots in the paint that we should have made and we missed.”
Jones adjusted to the game and came back with a strong second half after having a rocky start in the first half. He finished with a team high 15 points, and was four of seven from the field. He struggled from the line early, missing four of his first five free throw attempts, but bounced back and finished the game hitting five of his last seven attempts.
Was this the most physical game of the season for the Wildcats?
“One of them,” said Jones, “but I mean all of the SEC teams are tough and they’re going to try to play us this way. But as long as we’re coming out with the win, it’s only going to make us better as a team later on in the season.”
Davis, the primary target of the play discussed the rough play of the Tide.
Davis said, “It was very physical. We were missing a lot of one-footers, dunks, and layups. We had looks but we just weren’t finishing. It was a rough game. We knew they were trying to make it a physical game from the jump so we had to fight through it and grind it out.”
Davis had at least one Alabama player attached to him for most of the day. On the offensive end it was rare for an Alabama player or two not to be leaning heavily on the 6-10 slender forward. Defensively it was a bump and grind game in the post as Alabama’s game plan was obviously to go right at Kentucky’s shot blockers and not give them room to elevate for blocks in the post.
Alabama’s JaMychal Green said, “We came into the game and we knew we had to be physical and hit them because they’re athletic and long in the front court. Our focus mainly was hitting them, being physical and rebounding.”
Green discussed the Alabama game plan of taking the ball at Davis on their offensive possessions.
“That was our number one plan. Our coach did a great job of scouting. He told us to always go to [Davis’] chest so he wouldn’t able to block our shots so we could draw the foul.”
Green’s primary defensive assignment was to prevent Davis from getting easy baskets off lobs and the pick and roll as Davis has done for much of the season, as well as keeping Davis off the offensive glass where he gets easy buckets off teammates’ missed shots. Green discussed the game plan to defend Kentucky’s athletic forward.
Green said, “Coach (Grant) did a great job. He told us to sometimes switch up our ball-screen defense on them. I always kept a body on Davis if he rolled to the goal because we watched him play. We saw a lot of lobs and dunks so we knew that’s how he scored. We just kept him off the boards.”
The game plan of Alabama had mixed results.
Davis finished the game with four blocked shots, Kentucky as a team finished with nine, which is close to their season average of 9.3 blocked shots per game. The Alabama defense had the greatest impact on Davis, who was just two of ten from the field. The Kentucky forward hit seven of nine free throws to help offset the poor outing from the field. Davis finished with 11 points, and grabbed a team high nine rebounds. Davis also had four steals.
The game plan hampered Tony Mitchell’s offensive game, as he got into foul trouble trying to play physically. He was limited to six points in 20 minutes of play before fouling out.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was asked about the play of Alabama on Davis.
Calipari said, “What they did was they never left him. All they did was made sure there was a body on him. Somebody's hip was on him 24/7 until the game ended. As a matter of fact, they put a hip on him in the postgame handshake too. So it was somebody on his body so he can't block, so he can't jump. Just stay on him. ”
Calipari took the physical game in stride, seeing it as a way for his team to continue to improve.
Calipari said, “I'm happy we won. I told the guys enjoy the win. It was a rough game. We're still growing. We've got a long way to go. We're not the team everybody thinks we are, but we're getting better. All I want to see is improvement.”