Five things you need to know from No. 17 Kentucky’s 117-95 demolition of No. 13 Alabama

Five things you need to know from No. 17 Kentucky’s 117-95 demolition of No. 13 Alabama in men’s SEC basketball at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center:

1. Justin Edwards has himself a DAY. After a difficult start to his freshman season, the play of the Kentucky forward had been trending upward in February.

On Saturday, Edwards exploded.

The 6-foot-8, 203-pound Philadelphia product played an almost perfect offensive game. Edwards hit 10 of 10 shots, 4 of 4 3-pointers and 4 of 5 free throws en route to a career-high 28 points.

Edwards became the third player in Kentucky history to take at least 10 field goals in a game and not miss any. He joined Rodney Dent (12-of-12 in a win over Morehead State in 1993-94) and Kenny Walker (11-of-11 in a 1986 NCAA Tournament victory over Western Kentucky).

Over Kentucky’s last two games, Edwards has now made 7 of 8 3-point shots.

Besides his dazzling offensive showing, Edwards played with energy in other areas of the game, claiming five rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists while also making two steals.

Edwards played so well, he got not one but two standing ovations from the Rupp Arena crowd. He got his first standing “O” when Adou Thiero came in for him with 5:42 left in the game. After Thiero subsequently fouled out, Edwards returned to the game.

That meant he got another standing ovation with 2:36 left when he departed the game for good.

For a player with a massive recruiting profile who struggled so early this season, it was real easy to feel happy for Edwards on Saturday.

While near-offensive perfection is probably a bit much to expect moving forward, if Edwards becomes a consistent offensive force for UK, it obviously would give the Wildcats an extra dimension down the stretch.

Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) reacts after scoring against Alabama during Saturday’s game at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) reacts after scoring against Alabama during Saturday’s game at Rupp Arena.

2. John Calipari vs. Nate Oats. If you are among those who view the Calipari-Oats coaching rivalry as one of the past vs. the future, then Saturday was a very good day for “the past.”

One year after Alabama undressed Kentucky with high pick-and-roll actions in a 78-52 decimation of the Wildcats last season in Tuscaloosa, Calipari and UK returned the favor Saturday.

UK eviscerated what has been a so-so Alabama defense (72nd in the Pomeroy Ratings in adjusted defensive efficiency entering the game). The Cats shot a blistering 20-of-31 in the first half, then came back and hit 21 of 34 shots in half two. That came out to 63.1 percent shooting, 41-of-65, for the game.

Against a foe known for its use of the 3-point line, Kentucky doubled up the Crimson Tide on made treys. The Wildcats went 13-of-24 from behind the arc, compared to Bama’s 6-of-17.

Kentucky seems to have figured out that against a metrics-based “treys and layups only” offensive approach such as Alabama’s, the defensive play is to drive the Crimson Tide off the 3-point line and take your chances at the rim.

It worked, even as Alabama won the points-in-the-paint category 56-44.

With Kentucky’s win, Calipari is now 5-3 vs. Oats in head-to-head meetings, 4-3 since Alabama hired Oats.

3. Reeves in the UK record book. Kentucky super-senior Antonio Reeves continued his stellar season, scoring 24 points Saturday. Reeves now has 1,025 points in his Kentucky career.

That moved the Chicago product past Bobby Watson (1,001), Jimmy Dan Conner (1,009), Ron Mercer (1,013), Doron Lamb (1,018) and Bob Burrow (1,023) and into 57th on the all-time Kentucky scoring list.

Among players who, like Illinois State transfer Reeves, have only played two seasons for Kentucky, Reeves is now up to fifth: 1. Bill Spivey 1,213 points; 2. Oscar Tshiebwe 1,117; 3. Rex Chapman 1,073; 4. Terrence Jones 1,064; 5. Antonio Reeves 1,025.

4. Reed in the UK record book. Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard’s remarkable proclivity for pilfery has him within range of a major UK single-season record.

Sheppard was credited with four steals vs. Alabama on Saturday and now has 74 on the season.

In all of UK recorded basketball history, only Rajon Rondo (87 steals in 2004-05), Wayne Turner (79, 1996-97) and Rodrick Rhodes (76, 1993-94) have successfully committed more thefts in a season than has Sheppard.

(Former Kentucky point guard Cliff Hawkins also had 74 steals in 2003-04).

5. Cats vs. ranked teams. With its victory over the No. 13 Crimson Tide, Kentucky is now 4-2 this season vs. teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, UK is now 10-18 vs. ranked opponents.

Kentucky shows offensive firepower in 22-point win over Alabama. And it wasn’t that close.

Box score from No. 17 Kentucky basketball’s 117-95 SEC win over No. 13 Alabama

Shot charts from No. 17 Kentucky basketball’s 117-95 win over No. 13 Alabama

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