When teams go into Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats, they typically like to be at full strength. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Georgia (10-8; 4-2) on Saturday as Coach Mark Fox’s squad played without the services of Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker. Gaines, who was dealing with a deep leg bruise, is one of UGA’s leading scorers at 12 points per game, and the freshman Parker has already started a handful of games this season.
Georgia got down big in the first half after a relentless 13-0 Kentucky run that ran the score up to 25-10 following a Derek Willis layup with 5:46 remaining before intermission. At this point, it appeared that the Cats were on the verge of delivering a knockout blow and putting the game out of reach.
To the Dawgs’ credit however, UGA fought back. Brandon Morris scored 8 of his team-leading 15 points over the next 5-plus minutes, and Georgia went into the break trailing Kentucky 34-22.
While Georgia was unable to reclaim the lead in this game, they did get to within 6 points after a pair of free throws from Charles Mann trimmed the UK advantage to 37-31 with 16:19 left int he game.
Eventually, Kentucky’s talent became too much and the Cats pushed the lead out to 63-39 following a 12-0 run. With only 6 minutes remaining in the contest, Coach Cal’s team would cruise for the remainder of the game, earning the 79-54 victory.
Despite the fact that UK seemingly ran one 7-footer into the game after another, Georgia still battled strongly on the boards, out-rebounding Kentucky by a count of 35-32.
Kentucky’s strategy on Charles Mann – which was basically to have him facing pressure from the moment he received the ball under his own goal – served to wear down the sophomore, who only just 9 points on a 1 of 9 shooting performance from the floor.
Other than Morris, the only UGA player to score in double-digits was Marcus Thornton, who finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds while shooting just 2 of 10 on field goals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I will say this again: if Thornton could ever start finishing consistently around the rim he would score 15+ points a night.
To be fair, it was a tough shooting night for the entire Bulldog team as they connected on less than 33% of their field goals. In addition to the poor shooting, Georgia committed 20 turnovers inside Rupp, a credit to the Cats’ defensive intensity.
Kentucky had four players finish in double-figures in scoring with freshman Aaron Harrison leading the way with 15 points.
The bottom line is that UK’s lineup and bench is full of McDonald’s All-Americans and four-star recruits, and Georgia’s roster doesn’t include either of those. When Kentucky is this talented it is difficult for a team like UGA to hang around for 40 minutes, especially when playing without the services of one of their leading scorers.
The silver lining in all of this is that the Dawgs managed to split conference games again this week, and if they can continue to produce similar results they should end up with a winning SEC record.
Georgia gets Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday – a team that will be coming off of its first conference road win, following a 66-55 victory at Texas A&M.