I’m not in Tuscaloosa for tonight’s Kentucky-Alabama game — for updates follow Jerry Tipton on twitter @jerrytipton — but I will be watching the ESPN telecast and paying particular attention to three key things:
1. The slow, physical play. Anthony Grant’s Alabama teams want to bump and grind. The Tide isn’t a high-scoring or high-possession team. Instead, Grant likes a tough, physical game. Saturday against Texas A&M, Alabama won 50-49 over the Aggies. Bama has scored less than 70 points in eight of its last nine games. It has allowed less than 50 points in three of its last five and its last two straight games — a 75-43 thumping of Mississippi State in Starkville before the win over A&M.
2. Kyle Wiltjer’s streak. The sophomore forward has really picked up his game the last two outings, adding assists, some inside moves and some rebounding to his good shooting. He was especially effective out of the high post at Auburn and surely John Calipari hopes to see more of that tonight, though the coach cautioned Monday that Alabama is likely to try and take that away from the Cats. With Willie Cauley-Stein back home in Lexington, Kentucky could use another standout Wiltjer performance on the road.
3. Shiny, happy, people. The biggest thing in Saturday’s second half at Auburn was the Cats appeared to be having fun. There were grins, chest bumps, back-slapping and more grins. That happens when you outscore a team by 17 points in a second half on the road in conference play. That much of a second-half spread in an SEC game hasn’t happened too often, even during the Calipari Era. It will be interesting to see if that carries over to tonight, if Saturday’s second half at Auburn was the product of playing against an inferior opponent that was playing poorly or the sign that this young Kentucky team is starting to figure some things out.
Meanwhile, here’s a look at UK’s best second halves in SEC play of late.