Friday, March 10, 2006
BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Bobby Perry scored on a layup with 1:15 left to break a 61-61 tie, and Kentucky rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 6:19 to pull out a 68-61 victory Friday over Alabama in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Kentucky (21-11) was on the brink of missing the tournament's semifinals for the third time in the last seven years, with Alabama freshman Alonzo Gee scoring all 18 of his points in the final 14 minutes and giving the Tide a 55-45 lead on a 3-pointer with 7:39 left.
Ronald Steele's 3 pushed that to 11 points on the next possession.
The Wildcats could consider this tournament their birthright, having won 25 of the 44 they have played in and 10 of the last 14. They finally found the shooting touch that eluded them most of the game and finished off the Tide (17-12) with a 21-3 run.
Rajon Rondo, who missed his first six shots, finally scored to start the run. Perry scored nine in the spurt.
Alabama came in as the Western Division's No. 2 seed with a chance to reach the semifinals for a second straight year. But Richard Hendrix missed a layup that could have tied the game before Morris blocked Steele's jump shot. The Tide didn't score again after Steele hit a 3 with 4:17 left.
Kentucky will play South Carolina, a 79-71 upset winner over No. 14 Tennessee, in the semifinals Saturday.
Joe Crawford led Kentucky with 14 points. Perry and Patrick Sparks each had 13, and Randolph Morris, who played only five minutes of the first half because of foul trouble, had 11 and seven rebounds in the second half.
Kentucky finished shooting 39.7 percent (25-of-63) after hitting only 9-of-33 in the first half. The Wildcats struggled even with easy shots as Rondo failed on a wide-open layup off a fast break and Morris missed a dunk.
Jermareo Davidson had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Alabama, which outrebounded Kentucky 45-35, while Steele added 13.
Kentucky shot the ball so badly in the first half that Alabama coach Mark Gottfried was able to give Steele a rare one-minute break on the bench - his first after playing every minute of every SEC game this season.
The Crimson Tide led by as much as 20-10 after a 3-pointer by Jean Felix with 6:30 left.
Kentucky, which had hit only four of its first 23 shots, finally started hitting. Rekalin Sims hit a 3-pointer that started the Wildcats on a 13-2 run to finish the half, and they took their first lead since the opening minutes at 23-22 on a dunk by Shagari Alleyne just before the buzzer.