Immanuel Quickley’s recent string of impressive shooting performances prove how well he’s used the semester break honing his perimeter shot in the gym. Those workouts prepared him for clutch moments that got No. 14 Kentucky past Alabama. Quickley scored the game’s final five points and finished with 19, Ashton Hagans had 15 with a big 3 late and the Wildcats topped Alabama 76-67 on Saturday for their 1,000th Southeastern Conference victory.
Kentucky (12-3, 3-0 SEC) led by 15 early in the second half before a cold stretch allowed the Crimson Tide to climb within 63-60 with just over five minutes remaining. Quickley nailed a 3 from the right corner with 4:33 left before Hagans followed from near the top of the arc at 2:20 for a 69-62 edge that helped offset John Petty Jr.’s 3 that cut the deficit to four.
Quickley, who hit 5 of 6 from long range and 6 of 10 overall, came out of a timeout to make a 3 from the right corner with a minute left for a 74-67 lead. He added two three throws 24 seconds later as Kentucky beat the Crimson Tide for the 12th time in 13 meetings despite shooting just 32% after intermission.
Wildcats coach John Calipari suggested the timeout was to “ice” his sophomore reserve guard, who coolly delivered.
“He saw that my man was kind of standing all the way under the basket,” said Quickley, who has averaged nearly 19 points over his previous three games. “So he said, when I throw it to Nick (Richards), Nick just flipped it right back and just let me play.
“The man went under, I read and took the shot and made it.”
The Wildcats are 1,000-281 overall in SEC play.
Richards had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double this season. Tyrese Maxey added 13 points for the Wildcats, who shot 44%. Hagans had nine assists.
Herbert Jones had 18 points and Petty 16 for the Crimson Tide (8-7, 1-2), which sought to follow up their 21-point rout of Mississippi State. Alabama entered the game as the SEC’s top scoring offense (84.4 points) and had scored at least 90 points in five consecutive contests. They entered the game averaging 11 made 3s per game.
The Tide didn’t come close to either statistic, though they made it interesting.
“They are hard to score on and they did as good a job defensively on us as anyone all year,” Alabama first-year coach Nate Oats said. “You tell your guys what it is going to be like trying to score at the rim on these guys, maybe take a few more threes. But until you get into the game I don’t know how you emulate it. I guess, get some broomsticks out or something.”
Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s dangerous perimeter game never got going, thanks partly to Kentucky contesting shots along with some open misses. Petty and Jaden Shackleford, who ranked among the conference leaders in made 3s, combined to go 3 of 9 from behind the arc. Alabama stayed close thanks to a defense that slowed the Wildcats but couldn’t get the big shots it was used to and went 4 for 21 on 3s.
Kentucky: Richards, who also had five blocks, is obviously having the best stretch of his career, but his fellow forwards had solid efforts as well. Nate Sestina provided a boost off the bench with two early 3s for six points, and EJ Montgomery found his stroke for eight. They opened things up for Quickley and Hagans to get chances and allow Kentucky to finish 9 of 15 from long range and set the tone against a fast-paced Alabama squad.
Kentucky took another small step toward the Top 10 with the victory.
Alabama begins a two-game homestand against Auburn on Wednesday night.
Kentucky visits South Carolina on Wednesday night, seeking to beat the Gamecocks for the sixth time in eight meetings.