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Alabama’s Jermareo Davidson (33) struggled with a bad back during the Tide’s loss to Kentucky, while teammate Ronald Steele had knee problems.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Alabama’s Jermareo Davidson (33) struggled with a bad back during the Tide’s loss to Kentucky, while teammate Ronald Steele had knee problems.

Wildcats scratch battered Alabama out of tournament

By Josh Cooper · 340-2460

ATLANTA — Mark Gottfried hadn't used a certain three-letter postseason tournament acronym all year. But following Alabama's 79-67 loss to Kentucky in the first round of the SEC tournament on Thursday, the self-described "realist" had no choice.

"You hold out that last glimmer of hope but realistically, if we get invited to play in the NIT, we'll get our minds regrouped and do the very best job we can," Gottfried said. "Who knows? Maybe the (NCAA) selection committee will pick us. We do have a pretty decent RPI (No. 47 in the nation) but our goal at the start of the year was not to be in the NIT."

To try to keep its slim NCAA tournament hopes alive, Alabama (20-11) needed speedy recoveries from Ronald Steele (injured knee) and Jermareo Davidson (bad back) for the SEC tournament.

But Steele labored through 12 minutes against Kentucky and had just one field goal and two points. He pulled himself out in the second half when his knee started bothering him more severely.

Davidson scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds but literally couldn't sit down. When Gottfried took him out for a rest, Davidson would stand up, afraid that his back would tighten up.

The senior played 34 minutes in his final SEC tournament game.

"I'm in pain all over again right now," Davidson said.

Leading up to the tournament, Gottfried had stressed that his team lacked toughness. He addressed that in practice leading to the tournament, being more vocal and running the team almost ragged at times with conditioning drills.

As a result, Alabama had a different mindset against Kentucky (21-10), but shorthanded, the Tide still couldn't answer the Wildcats' play at guard or in the post.

Kentucky center Randolph Morris had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while guards Ramel Bradley (17 points), Jodie Meeks (12) and Joe Crawford (16) combined for 45 points.

The Tide had a 21-11 lead with 9:42 left in the first half and then got outscored 24-6 the rest of the half to put the score at 35-27.

Then with 12:14 left in the second, Alabama cut the lead to 52-47, only to see Kentucky go on a 13-2 run to push the score to 65-49 with 8:46 remaining.

"As a whole, we fought hard through the end," said Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix, who led Alabama scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds.

"Our toughness was there. You have to give it to Kentucky — they did everything to put us away. But our toughness and effort were there today."

Alonzo Gee had 15 points and five rebounds, while Mykal Riley chipped in with 12 points, making 4 of 7 3-point tries.

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