Kentucky Wildcats vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 24th 2024

No. 13 Alabama will aim to protect its first-place lead in the Southeastern Conference when it faces No. 17 Kentucky in a showdown on Saturday at Lexington, Ky.

The Crimson Tide (19-7, 11-2) hold a one-game lead over second-place Tennessee. Kentucky (18-8, 8-5) is tied for fifth place.

Alabama was threatened before hanging on to sole possession of first place with Wednesday’s 98-93 overtime victory over No. 24 Florida. The Gators led 76-67 with 6:11 remaining in regulation before the Crimson Tide rallied to force overtime and then controlled the extra session.

Alabama coach Nate Oats’ thoughts afterward included this comment: “Still not quite sure how we figured out how to win it.”

A big part was that the Crimson Tide got stellar efforts from Grant Nelson and Aaron Estrada. Nelson recorded 22 points, eight rebounds and a career-best six blocked shots, while Estrada had 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

Their performances helped Alabama keep its spot atop the SEC standings.

“If you’re going to win league championships, which we’re obviously in the hunt for with five games left, these are the games that you’ve got to figure out ways to win when you don’t play well,” Oats said.

Crimson Tide star guard Mark Sears had 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but his streak of consecutive 20-point outings ended at eight. Sears leads the team with a 20.4 scoring average.

Alabama played without guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr., who sustained a head injury during Monday’s practice. It isn’t known if he will play Saturday.

The Crimson Tide will be without forward Mohamed Wague, who was suspended for one game by the SEC for his actions on Wednesday. During a scramble for the ball, Wague slammed his elbow into the head of Florida’s Alex Condon.

Kentucky is trying to right the ship with the stretch run just around the corner.

The Wildcats started 12-2 this season but have since labored to a 6-6 mark. The latest startling result was Wednesday’s 75-74 road loss to LSU.

Tyrell Ward made a floater as time expired to give the Tigers the win in a contest Kentucky led by as many as 15 points.

“Fifty-fifty balls cost us the game,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said. “It’s all we talk about. Fifty-fifty balls. Not only the last play, the play before that.”

Antonio Reeves scored 25 points to become the 62nd Kentucky player to reach 1,000 career points. He has 1,001 in 60 games at the school.

But Reeves’ 14th 20-point outing of the season wasn’t enough to get the Wildcats a victory.

“We just needed stops,” Reeves said. “We needed to just focus in on locking in on the main guys. We kind of let go a little bit. They made a run. They made shots down the stretch and came out with the ‘W.'”

Backup Rob Dillingham scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half. He has six 20-point outings this season.

Kentucky hopes to have forward Tre Mitchell back on the floor. Mitchell has missed four of the last five games — the first two due to a back injury, the last two because of a shoulder injury sustained against Ole Miss on Feb. 13.

Alabama routed the Wildcats 78-52 in last season’s meeting in Tuscaloosa. It is the Crimson Tide’s largest margin of victory against Kentucky.

–Field Level Media

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