TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Ben Eblen grabbed a loose ball and made one of two free throws with 2.8 seconds left to help Alabama preserve a 68-66 victory over No. 12 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats, who had nearly erased a 20-point deficit, rebounded the missed foul shot but couldn't get a good shot off at the buzzer. Terrence Jones dribbled across midcourt and heaved a wild 3-pointer in traffic that caromed high off the backboard.
The Crimson Tide (11-7, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) had lost the last five meetings with the league powerhouse and had been 2-7 against ranked teams under coach Anthony Grant.
This time, Alabama surged to a 52-32 lead with a 15-2 spurt over the first 5 minutes of the second half before the Wildcats (14-4, 2-2) rallied.
Then, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb botched an exchange on the perimeter and Eblen grabbed the ball in the final seconds.
The Wildcats shot just 38 percent from the floor and were held to 14 points below their league-leading scoring average, stymied by a Tide defense that gives up the fewest points in the SEC.
JaMychal Green had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Tide, which is 10-0 at home. Tony Mitchell scored 15 and helped punctuate the fast start after halftime. Alabama also made half its 14 3-point attempts, including three by Charvez Davis.
Jones led Kentucky with 17 points and nine rebounds, but also committed four turnovers. Lamb added 16 points, Knight had 14 and Darius Miller 12.
The Wildcats were just 7 of 14 from the free throw line in the second half.
Alabama quickly extended a 37-30 halftime lead, with Mitchell hitting the final three baskets.
Then it was all Wildcats until the final minutes, with Jones scoring their final six points. Three times they cut Alabama's lead to one point but couldn't overtake the Tide.
Alabama's Senario Hillman took a charge with Knight driving for the go-ahead basket with 40 seconds left. Deandre Liggins then returned the favor with Hillman, drawing a charge to give Kentucky the ball back in the final 11 seconds.
Alabama outrebounded the Wildcats 41-34.