Kentucky coach John Calipari is shouldering the blame for his young team's first losing streak of the season.
Before a highly anticipated matchup against the country's top-ranked team in the regular-season finale, the 25th-ranked Wildcats will try to avoid their first three-game skid in Calipari's five seasons with the program Tuesday night against visiting Alabama.
Kentucky (21-8, 11-5 SEC) followed an overtime loss at home to Arkansas on Thursday with a 72-67 defeat at South Carolina two days later. The Gamecocks entered the game tied for last in the conference but built what proved an insurmountable 16-point lead midway through the second half.
After Calipari was ejected for a second technical foul, the Wildcats cut the deficit to one with 21 seconds to go but wouldn't get any closer. They shot 26.9 percent - their worst performance since making 24.2 percent at Kansas on Jan. 7, 2006 - and two players combined for 40 of the team's points.
Aaron Harrison had 21 points despite missing 12 of 16 shots and James Young finished with 19 despite missing eight of 12 attempts. Freshman star Julius Randle had 15 rebounds but made just 1 of 7 shots.
"At the end of the day, I take responsibility. I never put it on the kids. It's on me," Calipari said Monday. "We've got to get these kids more confident. Part of it is you've got to work your way through it. Part of it is when adversity hits, will you come together? It's all stuff we're learning."
The Wildcats will try to unify and avoid their first three-game skid since a string of four straight losses under coach Billy Gillispie from Feb. 25-March 7, 2009. Calipari took over the next season and went 35-3.
Kentucky would appear to have a strong chance to bounce back considering Alabama (12-17, 6-10) is 0-13 away from home this season. The Crimson Tide have also lost 15 straight road games against ranked foes since beating then-No. 4 Mississippi State on Feb. 21, 2004.
Kentucky is 82-4 at Rupp Arena under Calipari.
Alabama beat the Wildcats 59-55 in last season's lone matchup but that was in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has dropped its last three games in Lexington and lost in 53 of 63 all-time visits.
The Crimson Tide are coming off Saturday's 73-57 victory over rival Auburn, their second win in three games after a 1-6 stretch. They matched a season high with 10 3-pointers, and junior guard Levi Randolph had four while scoring a team-best 24 points.
"Levi came out there with great confidence," said senior Trevor Releford, who averages a team-high 18.8 points. "I credit Levi for stepping up and hitting some big shots when we needed them. That's the kind of energy we all feed off of."
Randolph is averaging 23.3 points and has made 9 of 16 3-pointers in his last three games.
The Wildcats will try to contain Randolph and Releford before visiting SEC regular-season champion Florida on Saturday.
"We've got two tough games left," Calipari said. "Alabama wins big (Saturday) and coming into our place with the attitude that they can beat us and we gotta go to Florida our last game before our tournament. So we got a lot left in front of us and we got some work to do."