Any notion Georgia (19-14) might have had of playing another close game with Kentucky (27-5) in today’s SEC tournament were quickly put to rest by a Wildcat team that came out determined to defend UGA better than it had during the regular season. The Cats halfcourt defense suffocated Georgia and forced the Dawgs to start its offense well outside the three-point line. J.J. Frazier constantly found himself surrounded by Kentucky defenders, and even when he didn’t have the ball a Wildcat defender was usually right on him playing deny defense. Yante Maten, who still didn’t look anywhere close to 100%, struggled to score the ball around the rim.
Kentucky certainly wasn’t at its best offensively, but Georgia’s woes on that end of the court made it impossible for the Dawgs to seriously threaten Coach Calipari’s team. Georgia shot just 30% from the floor and turned it over 7 times in the first half, yet they only trailed the Cats 32-25 at the break. A decent finish to the half – capped off by a corner three-pointer from Tyree Crump – offered UGA a glimmer of hope going into the intermission.
That hope, though, was dashed almost immediately by Kentucky at the start of the second half. The Dawgs began the half with a turnover and 3 misses, and the Cats quickly pushed their advantage to 38-25. UGA would only score 5 points for more than 8 minutes to begin the second half, and by the time Juwan Parker knocked down a jumper with 11:43 remaining the Dawgs had fallen behind 47-32.
Kentucky pushed its lead to 18 points after a monster dunk by Bam Adebayo with 9:54 left, making it 50-32. Georgia couldn’t manage to cut the lead to under double-digits again, and the Wildcats essentially cruised to their first win of the SEC tournament.
Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aron Fox went for 20 apiece, but for the most part, Georgia defended the Cats pretty well. The Dawgs contained Malik Monk, who they held to just 2 points, and they limited Kentucky to only 38% from the floor.
But ultimately the Dawgs’ offense did them in. UGA finished with 13 turnovers, with J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten leading the way with 3 each. Frazier and Maten scored 15 and 12, respectively, but they combined for just 7 for 28 from the floor, which just isn’t good enough for a team hoping to upset the SEC’s best team.
Georgia’s NCAA tournament hopes are just about done. If there’s any silver lining, I did read that UGA could potentially receive a 2-seed in the NIT.