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Fox carries Kentucky past Alabama, into SEC final

Fox carries Kentucky past Alabama, into SEC final
Published On: Sat, Mar 11
Nov 28, 2014; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Deandre Burnett (1) drives with the ball against South Alabama Jaguars during the second half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE -- Kentucky goes in search of its 30th SEC tournament title on Sunday after a 79-74 victory over Alabama in the semifinal round Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

No. 1 seed Kentucky (28-5) will face the winner of No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Arkansas in the championship game.

"The team is starting to come together and understand numbers don't matter on a team like this," Wildcats coach John Calipari said. "It may be your game, may be another guy's game. That was good for us to see and how they played."

This game belonged to freshman guard De'Aaron Fox, who scored 28 points -- 14 in the final seven minutes -- to lead the win.

"I just kept making plays and they kept putting the ball in my hands," Fox said. "When I know Coach is trusting me and my teammates are trusting me, keep attacking, doing what you're doing. All I got to do is just make the play."

Freshman guard Malik Monk added 20 points for Kentucky, 13 coming in the first half.

Freshman guard Dazon Ingram paced Alabama (19-14) with 17 points.

"We battled, we fought," Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said. "We put on our hard hat and came to play. Body language was great. Attitudes were great. Our guys came to play and there was no surrender. We battled all the way to the very end."

Trailing 36-33 early in the second half, Kentucky went on an 18-6 run to grab a 51-42 lead with 11:24 to play. Isaiah Briscoe had four free throws while Monk, Fox and Derek Willis each had three points.

Alabama cut the lead to 58-57 when Briscoe was called for a flagrant-1 foul with 7:11 remaining. Riley Norris hit both free throws to make it 58-56 and added another free throw to make it 58-57 with 6:49 left.

From that point, Fox scored 11 of Kentucky's next 13 points to push the Wildcats back on top 71-63 with 1:33 to play. Included was a 7-1 run where all the points came from Fox, who scored 14 of their final 19 points.

Saturday's win marked the fourth time in five games Kentucky rallied from a double-digit deficit.

"We have a great will to win," Calipari said. "We were down 19, 16, 15, 17, whatever, and came back and won. The mentality is like we always have a chance."

Alabama jumped on top 9-2 thanks to five points from Ingram and four from Bola Olaniyan. The Crimson Tide had six rebounds early, scoring four points on offensive put-backs.

Alabama stretched the lead to 17-7 before the Wildcats went on a furious 11-0 run to take the lead at 18-17 with 9:47 left in the half. Five different players scored with Monk's 3-pointer starting the rally. The Crimson Tide went more than four minutes without a point.

The Wildcats erased the double-digit deficit by outscoring Alabama 19-3 for a 26-20 lead with 6:31 to play. Fox had seven points, Monk five and Bam Adebayo four.

The teams traded baskets down the stretch with Kentucky holding a 33-32 lead at the break. Monk topped the Wildcats with 13 points and Fox added nine. The Wildcats shot 57.1 percent but committed 10 turnovers, five by Fox.

Alabama got nine points from Ingram and five each from Donta Hall and Norris. The Tide shot 37.5 percent but won the rebounding battle 19-14.

NOTES: Kentucky is now 6-0 all-time when facing Alabama in the SEC tournament semifinals. UK leads the overall series 110-37. ... Kentucky and Alabama met once during the regular season with UK winning 67-58 on Feb. 11 in Tuscaloosa. ... Alabama led the SEC in scoring defense (64.1 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (39.8 percent).

Read the complete news article here...

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