MBB: Wildcats edge Bulldogs in SEC opener

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MBB: Wildcats edge Bulldogs in SEC opener

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After a huge win this past Saturday against top-10 Memphis, the Georgia Bulldogs returned to the hardwood Tuesday night to face another top-25 team, 14th ranked Kentucky. The Wildcats’ bested the Bulldogs 78-69 in front of a sellout crowd in Stegeman Coliseum.

Freshman Anthony Edwards led the Bulldogs with 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Senior Jordan Harris was the only other Bulldog in double-figures finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists. 

The difference was Kentucky had four players in double figures with Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey both scoring 17 points, followed by Immanuel Quickley in 15, and Ashton Hagans with 13.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari gave credit to Georgia for a hard-fought game. 

“I give it to them – they came out and fought. Tom (Crean) had them ready to play,” said Calipari in his post-game press conference. “Our second-half performance was much better in terms of shooting without a lot of foul trouble.”

To start the game, Georgia jumped out to a 5-0 lead with Edwards scoring all their points. But Kentucky responded with a 10-0 run of their own with points coming from Nick Richards, Keion Brooks Jr., and Tyrese Maxey. The teams traded baskets before Georgia responded with nine straight points over the course of almost three minutes before it ended with Brooks hitting a layup with 10:55 to go. 

Both teams struggled early and remained in foul trouble throughout the first half. Both teams entered the bonus early, but Kentucky was 1-of-3 (33.3%) to end the first half. Georgia was 8-of-14 (57.1)% shooting from the foul line. 

With 7:24 to go, Georgia led 23-21 with a lot of players contributing. With Edwards leading with six points. Hammonds, Tye Fagan, and Jordan Harris all had four. From that point on, Georgia outscored Kentucky 16-10 down the stretch. With just under 1:30 to go, freshman Christian Brown scored on consecutive trips down the floor before Edwards ended the half with a dunk. Wildcats’ Hagans made a three with time expiring, but Georgia led 37-31.

Christian Brown
Christian Brown

Georgia was 10-of-23 (43.3%) from the field compared to Kentucky shooting 14-of-33 (42.4%) in the first half. Georgia outrebounded the Wildcats, 24-17 in the first half, as Edwards and Harris both had four boards apiece. 

Edwards led Georgia in the first half in scoring with eight but kept shooting well as he came out in the second half swinging. Edwards hit two 3-pointers and made a layup inside the paint in the first ten minutes of the half.  Kentucky rattled off 11 points in the first 4:01 of the second half, but Georgia still had the early lead due to Edwards. In the timespan, Georgia was outrebounded 10-4. 

Kentucky turned up the pressure inside the paint, but both teams kept trading blows down the stretch of the next eight minutes. With 7:40 to go, Kentucky led 60-57. Nate Sestina, Maxey and Quickley all had baskets going into the official timeout. The last two minutes before that stop in play, Georgia had evened out the rebounding battle. 

Hammonds picked up his fourth personal foul with 7:09 and was substituted out of the game. Kentucky led 63-57. With Hammonds out, Harris came in his place and immediately made a jumper with Crump following with a layup on a fast break to cut the Wildcats’ margin of lead to two. Quickley ended the Bulldogs’ momentum with a 3-pointer of his own. 

Georgia cut the lead to Kentucky lead to four with just under two minutes left, but Richards nailed a jumper with 1:42 left. Coming out of a timeout, Edwards hit a layup inside the paint but Hagans answered with two free throws of his own. With just one minute remaining, Kentucky led 72-66 as Georgia turned the ball over giving the Wildcats the ball. That was pretty it as Kentucky hit four free throws to end the game. 

Georgia was outscored 47-32 in the second half and shot just 13-of-30. Kentucky went into a three-guard lineup to start the half and wore down Georgia defensively. 

“In the second half, we were out-rebounded by eleven. Nick Richards was a real problem for us in the second half, and we didn’t have a matchup for him,” said Tom Crean in his post-game interview. “We were not nearly as good in the second half, and they topped our level our physicality.”

Kentucky had 23 rebounds in the second half with Sestina accounting for seven of them.

“We didn’t lose the game because of the defense,” said Crean. “We lost the game because of our inability to rebound and the points off turnovers Kentucky had.”

What’s next for the Hoop Dawgs? Georgia takes on the No. 5 Auburn Tigers this Saturday on January 11th, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Here is the video from Tom Crean’s post-game press conference:

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.