Toughest test comes in roughest stretch

Losing two straight games isn’t the ideal lead-in to a Lexington road trip. But that’s what Anthony Grant’s basketball team faces this morning. This is what I wrote for today’s paper:

TUSCALOOSA — Flushing the memories of Thursday night’s loss to Vanderbilt was the easy part.

Turning around 39 hours later to play the No. 2 team in the country adds a degree of difficulty to an already trying week for the Alabama basketball team.

Coming off its second straight loss, the Crimson Tide faces second-ranked Kentucky (18-1, 4-0 SEC) in Lexington under difficult circumstances. A season-worst shooting night saw Alabama fall behind by as many as 23 in a 69-59 loss to Vanderbilt. Friday travel limited preparation for a Kentucky team averaging 20-point victories every time it hits the floor.

Add in the Wildcats’ 46-game home-court winning streak and the odds appear long for the Tide (13-5, 2-2). But Kentucky coach John Calipari remembers the 68-66 beating Alabama handed his team a year ago in Tuscaloosa.

“They’re going to be mean and nasty,” Calipari told reporters in Lexington, Ky., on Friday. “I would expect that. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t play well, Vanderbilt is really good, (Alabama) is good, but Vanderbilt is really good. If Vanderbilt is making shots like they were, we are getting beat by them. They’re that good. I don’t think it’s that they played that poorly, a couple guys didn’t score like they normally do but that kind of stuff happens.”

Second-leading scorer Tony Mitchell was one of those absentee scorers against Vanderbilt. He went without a point in a game for the first time in his Alabama career on 0-for-8 shooting.

“Tony is one of the best players on the team, and him not scoring really hurt us a lot,” said senior JaMychal Green, who scored a season-low six against the Commodores. “If he would have scored, it probably would have been a different ending.”

Neither Green, nor Mitchell will get many easy shots near the basket at Kentucky.

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