Mack, Alabama upset No. 13 Kentucky 77-75 in SEC opener
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — This time, Alabama held on.
The Crimson Tide are rolling.
Tevin Mack made six first-half 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, and Alabama held off No. 13 Kentucky 77-75 on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Dazon Ingram scored all 11 of his points after halftime, including some key free throws in the Crimson Tide’s fifth consecutive win. The Wildcats gave them a big scare in the final seconds after surging back from 11 points down.
Alabama’s win streak began after it lost 83-80 to Georgia State on a game-ending 3. It looked as if the Tide might be headed for another tough ending, but this time the result went their way.
“That would have hurt,” Mack said. “To play our heart out the whole game and end up with nothing, it would have hurt. I’m glad we were able to get out of there with a win.”
Alabama coach Avery Johnson said the team probably had its hardest four-day stretch of practice of his tenure this week. He called it “a huge win for our program.”
“We talked a lot about it behind the scenes,” Johnson said. “We needed to beat Kentucky.”
Ingram made two free throws with 23 seconds left in between back-to-back layups by Ashton Hagans. Hagans’ second cut it to 76-73 with 16 seconds left. Alabama (10-3) got the ball across midcourt but Hagans came away with the ball on a steal from Ingram.
PJ Washington scored on a dunk with 5 seconds to play and Kentucky (10-3) quickly fouled John Petty, who made one of two from the line.
Tyler Herro’s 3-point try at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Hagans passed him the ball after he couldn’t find an opening for a shot.
“It went to Ashton and he drove middle and he flips it back and we get a good look from the top of the key for the win,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
“Look, we didn’t deserve to win the game. We really didn’t. We’d have run out of here saying, how’d we do this? But we didn’t have any business winning that game. We just kind of clawed and made it close and gave ourselves a chance.”
Mack kept Alabama in the game in the first half. The Tide trailed 40-38 at the break after he went 6 for 6 from beyond the arc. He missed his only two 3-point attempts in the second half.
“He couldn’t miss. He was hitting everything,” Washington said. “We tried to get a hand up on him but unfortunately he was hitting everything. Our main focus in the second half was to not let him get off and I think we did a great job of that.”
Kira Lewis Jr. had 12 points for the Tide, who had five players score in double figures. Donta Hall had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Herbert Jones finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Washington led the Wildcats with 15 points and they also had all five starters reach double figures. Keldon Johnson finished with 13.
Herro, Reid Travis and Hagans all scored 12. Hagans also had six assists and three steals.
Hall scored on a tap-in to push Alabama’s lead to 72-61 with 3:12 left. Johnson answered with a 3-pointer for the Wildcats, who whittled away at the lead but could never quite catch up.
Herro’s 3-pointer cut it to 74-69 with 40 seconds left after Travis grabbed the offensive rebound. The Wildcats forced a turnover on the inbounds play and Hagans drove for a layup.
It was the first time Kentucky played in Coleman Coliseum since Feb. 11, 2016.
Kentucky: Couldn’t sustain the momentum after wins over Utah, North Carolina and Louisville. Made 5 of 18 3-pointers.
Alabama: Withstood late threats to keep the winning streak alive and snap a 10-game skid against Kentucky. Made 10 of 23 3-pointers.
Alabama had an announced crowd of 12,424 even with students out of town and some fans headed to California for the college football championship.
“It’s playing us,” Calipari said. “They have no students on the campus and I think they have one or two people that left here to go out to California, and the place was packed. Think about it. Where did these people come from that they were here? That’s what happens.”
Kentucky hosts Texas A&M on Tuesday night.
Alabama visits LSU on Tuesday night.