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UK Blows Halftime Lead at Alabama, Fuels NIT Discussion

This story originated at KY Forward with additions made by The River City News.

The UK men’s basketball team made just eight of 27 field goal attempts in the second half as Alabama rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit for a 59-55 win.

The Wildcats led 33-24 at halftime, but a stretch of 11 and one-half minutes without a field goal from the 3:34 mark in the first half to the 12:04 mark in the second half allowed Alabama to rally all the way back to a one-point deficit.

Alabama took its first lead of the second half at 40-38 on a layup by Andrew Steele with 9:43 remaining and did not trail for the remainder of the game.

Much of the Wildcats’ poor shooting could be attributed to starting guards Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, who combined for five-of-24 shooting (20.8 percent) in the game.

After shooting 48.3 percent (14-29) as a team in the first half, the Wildcats shot just 29.6 percent (8-27) in the second half.

Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer led UK with 14 points on six-of-10 shooting. Senior guard Julius Mays added 12 points behind four-of-five shooting from three-point range.

Freshman forward Nerlens Noel continued to fill up the box score with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks.

The loss marked UK’s first defeat when leading at halftime this season. UK is now 71-2 when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points in the John Calipari era.

Twitter lights up with "Kentucky to the NIT" rhetoric

Is it possible that the Kentucky Wildcats could miss out on the chance to defend their national title in the NCAA Tournament? Sports pundits and many fans took to Twitter to revel or voice concern about that possibility. "NIT" and "Kentucky" were both trending separately in the Cincinnati area. 

(The NIT stands for National Invitation Tournament and is a post-season opportunity for teams that fail to make the NCAA Tournament.)

There were multiple variations on the joke that UK would be a number-one seed -- in the NIT. Also, that the title game between Kentucky and North Carolina would be epic this year -- in the NIT. (The Tar Heels are also having a comparatively down year.)

Jeff Goodman, senior writer at CBS, perhaps sent out the harshest reality-check tweet of the night. "Kentucky loses to Alabama," Goodman wrote. "UK has the resume of an NIT team right now. Maybe even a CBI team." CBI is the College Basketball Invitational, a relatively new tournament offering post-season play to teams that don't even make the NIT.

Popular ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who tweets in the same manner as he speaks, had lots of words for the Cats and their fans. "Not a good day 4 hoop fans in the Bluegrass St - Cats better start beating good teams - SEC won't provide many chances - WOW maybe NIT." Vitale also tweeted, "I just can't believe Goodwin/Poythress/WillyC ready for NBA. They need UK more than UK needs them."

(Box Score)