John Calipari took a chance against Alabama, and that chance paid off with a huge night from Zvonimir Ivisic.

In the top-20 matchup for Kentucky, Calipari went to Ivisic off the bench early to see how the big man would respond. Calipari said the move came down to a gut feeling he had on Friday though his decision was not immediately well-received.

“I made a decision yesterday that I was going to play Z, and I received some pushback,” Calipari admitted. “But I said ‘nope.’ When I wake up and my gut says ‘That’s what I should do,’ then I’m doing it.”

Finding more playing time for the dynamic Croatian has not been a matter of skill Calipari said. It ultimately boils down to physicality, and Calipari saw enough to keep him in the game against the Crimson Tide.

When it was all said and done, Ivisic played a career-high 20 minutes. His previous high was 16 minutes against Georgia last month. A loss to Gonzaga 2 weeks ago was the last time Ivisic saw double-digit minutes.

Ivisic was fantastic against Alabama, scoring a career-high 18 points and also setting another career-high mark with 4 blocks. His performance in the win helped Kentucky remain in the mix for a top-4 seed in the SEC Tournament, and fans can track all the postseason odds with SDS’s Kentucky sports betting links.

For one key stretch of Saturday’s game, Kentucky relied on playing a group of guards with Justin Edwards at the 4 and Ivisic at center. According to Calipari, he told that group he was going to ride them for a bit because things were clicking so well.

“I thought they were good, I left them in,” said Calipari about playing 3 guards alongside Edwards and Ivisic. “All I said was if you need a sub, I’m going to sub you out, but you’ll go right back in because this unit is really pretty good.”

Ivisic was not alone with his career-high outing as Edwards also delivered a breakout performance while shooting 10-for-10 from the floor. That’s a good sign for the former 5-star prospect as Kentucky heads toward the end of the regular season.

The presence of Ivisic has potential with the Wildcats, and he could be an X factor for the program entering the postseason. We’ll see how the Wildcats deploy his skill set, but Calipari’s gut feeling paid off against Alabama.