Kentucky had little trouble earlier this month in its visit against an improved Alabama team.
In Saturday night’s rematch at Rupp Arena, the top-ranked Wildcats will face a Crimson Tide squad that’s mired in a slump and won’t have one of its leading scorers available.
Kentucky (20-0, 7-0 SEC) led by double digits for much of the final 28 minutes in a 70-48 rout of Alabama on Jan. 17 and used its usual balanced scoring attack. The Wildcats had eight players contribute at least five points and three score in double figures, led by Devin Booker’s 13 off the bench.
Alabama entered that game at 12-4, nearly matching its win total from its 13-19 finish in 2013-14. The Tide (13-7, 3-4) suffered two of their first four losses by a combined three points and have come up short in some close games recently as well.
They’ve fallen 93-91 in overtime at Arkansas on Jan. 22 and 52-50 to Florida on Tuesday, giving up the go-ahead dunk with 17 seconds to go. With 13 points, Ricky Tarrant was one of two players to score in double figures Tuesday but is out for this one because of a lower leg injury.
The junior transfer from Tulane is second on the team with 13.1 points, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
"We’ll know more about his status after the weekend. As far as right now, he’s out for tomorrow’s game, and that’s all we really know as of right now," coach Anthony Grant said.
Tarrant’s absence could make it a little easier for Kentucky to add to its best start since beginning 23-0 in 1965-66. The Wildcats surpassed their 19-0 start from coach John Calipari’s first season in 2009-10, and are five wins shy of tying the best in program history from 1953-54.
They endured a physical game in Thursday’s 69-53 win at Missouri. The Tigers had three players foul out and their 31 fouls were the most in seven seasons.
Kentucky converted 27 foul shots and Andrew Harrison got nine of his team-best 15 points from the line.
"Give the players a ton of credit. They’re finding out how to win games," Calipari said. "It’s kind of neat that they can make their mark as a team, but they probably don’t even know it. It’s a good feeling to have and we’re just going to try to keep stringing games along right now."
Kentucky has won four straight at home over Alabama, including 55-48 on March 4. That loss is among Alabama’s 20 in a row to AP Top 25 opponents since a 68-66 win over No. 12 Kentucky on Jan. 18, 2011. The Tide have dropped 17 consecutive road contests against those teams.
They haven’t defeated a No. 1 team since a 70-67 victory over Stanford in the 2004 NCAA tournament and haven’t beaten a top-ranked opponent on the road since a win over UCLA by the same score Jan. 28, 1983.
Kentucky has won 20 in a row overall and 33 of its 34 at home over unranked teams.