ATLANTA, Ga. (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.
Joe Crawford scored 16 points while Jodie Meeks and Bobby Perry added 12 and 10, respectively, for the Cats, who will face Mississippi State Friday in the second round. Tipoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET.