- Saturday, February 12 2005 -
Georgia - 51 (Head Coach: Dennis Felton) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 60 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 29, Georgia 20
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Florida 69 - 66|||||South Carolina 61 - 73|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats unscathed, but unhappy
Just when you think Kentucky's young basketball team was starting to grow up and mature under Coach Tubby Smith's watchful eye, the Cats proved they still have a lot of learning to do.
UK played arguably its most inconsistent and uninspired game of the season, but benefited from having a hopelessly outmanned Georgia team in town in slogging its way to a 60-51 victory in front of 23,897 fans at Rupp Arena.
"We regressed a lot," Smith said. "We were terrible. We are just ordinary. When you don't come with the right attitude and energy level, we are very ordinary players. We've got to be more grown up and mature about the way we prepare."
The Cats looked dead from the outset, falling behind 9-3 in the first four minutes before Smith benched his entire starting lineup in favor of his second unit. That group helped spark a 21-2 run to put UK comfortably in front 24-11, but that was about all the Cats did right for most of the day. Still, UK moved to 19-2 on the season and a perfect 10-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
Nobody felt much like talking about that after the game though.
"We were fortunate we didn't lose this game, but this was a reality check," sophomore forward Bobby Perry said.
In fact, most of the players who spoke with the media afterward admitted they almost felt as if they lost to Georgia because of the way they played.
"Sometimes we didn't play the right way," senior captain Chuck Hayes said. "That's why even in a win it feels like a loss."
It was hard to disagree with Hayes, who led UK with 14 points. The Cats pushed their lead out to a game-high 21 at 46-25 with 12 minutes left, but found themselves in a dogfight as Georgia cut the deficit to 55-50 with 2:04 remaining. The Bulldogs, who were just 1-9 in the conference heading into the game, used back-to-back three-pointers by reserve Jay McAuley to spark the run, as UK turned the ball over and took ill-advised shots. To that point of the season, McAuley had scored just two points all season long.
About the only thing that saved UK from the most shocking upset in college basketball this season was Georgia's inability to hit a free throw. The Bulldogs made just 10-of-22 from the line (45 percent), stifling every chance at a comeback with missed charity tosses.
"If they had shot free throws at a higher percentage, we are sitting here trying to explain the loss," Smith said.
Instead, UK was left to explain how it performed so poorly against perhaps the SEC's worst team, a squad the Cats had dominated 76-55 in Athens less than a month prior to this contest. The lack of effort from UK was evident in the rebounding totals, which Georgia controlled 37-29 after losing the same battle 44-18 in Athens.
"We didn't come out with enough energy and intensity," junior guard Ravi Moss said. "We didn't do anything to tell you the truth. (Coach Smith) should have made us feel as small as possible.
"It's not his job to get us fired up. It's our job. He shouldn't have to hoot and holler to do that."
As disappointed as Smith was, the players certainly spoke like they knew they still have a lot of work to do.
"You hate to let Coach down," Perry said. "(The staff) works so hard to prepare. And its not just the coaches, it's the fans. The pay to come see us. They come to see Kentucky basketball and we didn't play Kentucky basketball.
"We deserve to feel down and low."
As Smith spoke to the media after the game, he admitted he was beginning to calm down and that he would try to emphasize to his young team that they can learn from such an abysmal effort.
"It's not all gloom and doom," Smith said. "For anyone, it was not pretty to watch, but we were able to pull it out. We'll learn a lot from it."
That's about all the Cats can take from the victory.
Rajon Rondo shoots over Georgia's Jay McAuley
Ravi Moss works against the Georgia defense
Patrick Sparks drives by UGa's Jay McAuley