The Georgia Bulldogs had two moments in tonight’s game against the #1 Kentucky Wildcats in which they could have easily laid down and given up.
The first one came right out of the gates, when the Cats opened up an 11-1 lead before this game was even 4 minutes old. At this point, Kentucky had made more field goals than UGA had even attempted. Yet, Georgia got 5 quick points from Neme Djurisic and found itself trailing 11-6 with 15:11 to go before the break.
Another point in this game when I thought UGA might be finished was during the initial minutes right out of halftime. Kentucky, who held a 42-27 lead at the intermission, went up by 18 points after a three-pointer by Andrew Harrison. But the Dawgs responded with an 11-3 run that saw them cut the score to 50-40 following a layup by Kenny Gaines with a little over 15 minutes remaining.
Georgia actually had a chance to get within a possession with a little over 9 minutes left in the game after Yante Maten buried a jumper from the top of the key, cutting the Kentucky lead to 56-49. The Cats then went scoreless for over 4 minutes, but UGA couldn’t capitalize, turning the ball over once and missing two field goals and a free throw. Eventually, UK’s Devin Booker broke free on a break for a layup that put his team up 58-49 with 5:44 remaining.
The nail in the coffin came when Karl-Anthony Towns hit a hook shot with only 1:36 left to send the Cats up 65-58. Kentucky would end up winning 69-58 by the time the final horn sounded.
For so many reasons, Georgia, who entered this game as a 19-point underdog, had no business making this a two-possession game in the contest’s closing minutes. For one, Kentucky has nearly as many McDonald’s All-Americans as UGA has scholarship players. Second, the Dawgs were on the road once again without their leading scorer and rebounder, Marcus Thornton.
And even though UGA’s backcourt of Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier combined for only 20 points, making only 5 of their 22 attempts from the floor, Georgia still hung around in Lexington and made this one competitive.
The Dawgs’ frontcourt shined on Tuesday, with Neme leading his team with 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Yante Maten played arguably his best game of the year, scoring 13 points and grabbing 9 boards – just missing his first career double-double.
Kentucky was led offensively by Andrew Harrison, who netted 23 points on the night.
All silver linings aside though, Georgia’s SEC record now stands at 5-4, putting them in a tie with Tennessee for 4th place in the league. The Dawgs will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday when they host the Vols in Athens for a noon tip.
Let’s hope that Marcus Thornton is cleared to play because UGA is back in a “must win” situation.