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Cats Roll In Tournament Opener

ATLANTA (AP) - Kentucky would have preferred to wait another day
to start the Southeastern Conference tournament. Fortunately for
the Wildcats, they were at a place that feels just like home.
Ramel Bradley and Randolph Morris scored 17 points apiece to
lead five players in double figures and Kentucky romped to another
victory in Atlanta, overcoming a slow start to beat Alabama 79-67
in the opening round of the SEC tournament.
The Wildcats (21-10) solidified their expected NCAA berth in a
season that hasn't lived up to expectations so far. They finished
fourth in the SEC East, forcing them to play on the opening day of
the tournament for the second year in a row.
But Kentucky always seems to do well at the Georgia Dome,
winning for the 19th time in 23 appearances at the football
stadium-turned-basketball arena that is a frequent host of the SEC
tournament.
After Alabama (20-11) raced to a 21-11 lead just past the midway
point of the first half, the Wildcats took command with a 13-0 run
that ended with a dunk by Morris. Bouncing back from a 3-of-15
start from the field, Kentucky made 11 of its last 15 shots in the
first half.
The Crimson Tide claimed its last lead at 27-25, but Kentucky
responded with three straight 3-pointers - two by Bradley, another
by Jodie Meeks. The Wildcats closed the half with an 11-0 spurt for
a 35-27 lead at the break.
Kentucky pulled away with yet another run in the second half.
Bradley hit a jumper, then another 3 to spark a 9-0 run that put
the Wildcats up 61-47. Alabama never got closer than 10 the rest of
the way.
The loss likely cost the Crimson Tide, which got as high as No.
4 in The Associated Press rankings early in the season, any hope of
making the NCAA tournament. Alabama will go down as one of the
year's biggest disappointments, their slide caused by injuries,
erratic play and a lack of toughness.
Richard Hendrix led Alabama with 21 points. Alonzo Gee added 15
and Jamareo Davidson, who played with a bad back, had 12. Point
guard Ronald Steele played only 12 minutes because of an ailing
knee, managing just 2 points and one assist.

KENTUCKY 79, ALABAMA 67
ALABAMA (20-11)
Gee 6-10 3-6 15, Hendrix 5-9 10-15 21, Davidson 5-13 2-2 12, Riley 4-9 0-0 12, Hollinger 1-2 0-0 3, Torrance 0-1 0-0 0, Tubbs 0-0 0-0 0, Steele 1-2 0-0 2, Jemison 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 23-49 15-23 67.
KENTUCKY (21-10)
R.Perry 4-10 0-0 10, Morris 8-10 1-2 17, Bradley 5-12 4-4 17, Jasper 1-3 1-2 3, Crawford 7-14 0-0 16, Obrzut 0-2 1-2 1, Meeks 4-6 2-2 12, Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 30-60 10-14 79.
Halftime-Kentucky 35-27. 3-Point Goals-Alabama 6-10 (Riley 4-7, Hollinger 1-1, Hendrix 1-1, Gee 0-1), Kentucky 9-22 (Bradley 3-9, Meeks 2-3, Crawford 2-4, R.Perry 2-5, Thomas 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Alabama 26 (Davidson, Hendrix 7), Kentucky 34 (Morris 11). Assists-Alabama 12 (Hollinger 4), Kentucky 13 (Meeks 4). Total Fouls-Alabama 11, Kentucky 17. A-NA.


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