- Wednesday, March 3 2010 -
Kentucky - 80 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 3rd by AP and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today]
Georgia - 68 (Head Coach: Mark Fox) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 40, Georgia 36
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|Tennessee 65 - 74|||||Florida 74 - 66|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK turns up defensive heat in Athens
ATHENS, Ga. - Embarrassed by its last outing and emboldened by the power of ferocious defense Kentucky finally looked like a Final Four contender.
UK unleashed a ravenous defense in the second half to sweep Georgia with an 80-68 victory at Stegeman Coliseum. With the win the Cats clinched the Eastern Division's No. 1 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and at least a share of their 44th regular season league crown, while also becoming the lone team from the East to win on the Bulldogs' home floor this season.
Having all but begged his team to lock down on the defensive end, UK coach John Calipari finally witnessed what his talented squad may be capable of on that end of the floor. The Cats (28-2, 13-2) turned a two-point affair into a runaway by holding Georgia without a shot that hit the rim in the first 3:01 of the second half. During the stretch UK produced five turnovers and saw Darius Miller block a pair of Travis Leslie jumpers to crank up the defensive pressure to levels previously unseen this season.
All of it was in stark contrast to the first half when UK appeared too much like the squad Calipari said was 'sleeping' at Tennessee.
In perhaps an act of defiance to the recent criticism of its perimeter shooting the Cats jacked up 16 three-pointers in the first half, making six. The change in philosophy (DeMarcus Cousins did not get a single shot) resulted in just 14 points in the paint after getting 46 such points when the teams met in January.
Georgia (13-15, 5-10) made a living in the paint and on the offensive glass in the first half, dominating the Cats through hustle and sheer will. UK stood flat-footed for much of the early portion of the game, allowing the Bulldogs to pile up 15 second chance points on 11 offensive rebounds. The totals were staggering given Georgia managed just four second chance points in the first meeting.
Then everything changed.
After Miller rejected Leslie to open the second half Cousins found Wall for a three-pointer before stealing an entry pass and deftly guiding his 6-foot-11, 270 pounds coast-to-coast for a transition lay-in. After another Miller block Cousins again stole a pass, took off down the floor and delivered a perfect bounce pass to Patrick Patterson. When Wall scored an old-fashioned three-point play off another steal the lead had swelled to 14 and the outcome was all but decided.
Wall led UK with 24 points, while Patterson added 17 points. Jeremy Price had a season-high 19 points to lead the Bulldogs.
Patrick Patterson (#54) drives on Trey Thompkins
Daniel Orton (#33) defends against Georgia's Jeremy Price (#50)
DeMarcus Cousins blocks the shot of Ebuka Anyaorah