- Saturday, January 17 2004 -
Georgia - 65 (Head Coach: Dennis Felton) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 57 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Georgia 28, Kentucky 25
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi State 67 - 66|||||Tennessee 69 - 68 OT|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Georgia gets tough, rumbles to victory over UK
Georgia coach Dennis Felton exited Rupp Arena a winner for the second time in as many chances, but it was how his Bulldogs ended Kentucky's 21-game Southeastern Conference winning streak that was shocking.
Georgia punched UK in the mouth from the get-go, jumping on the Cats 8-2 in the first five minutes, then extending the lead to 20-9 later in the half. For the first time all season, UK was playing from behind and despite taking the lead briefly in the second half, the Cats (11-2, 2-1) never really caught up.
The result was an ugly 65-57 loss in front of a subdued Rupp Arena crowd of 23,102. It was the second win in Lexington in three years for Georgia (9-5, 1-2) after the Bulldogs had lost 51 of their first 53 trips to the Commonwealth.
"Our whole trademark is getting off to good starts," junior Chuck Hayes said. "As you can see, we never really got going. We never went on a run. We never went on one of those spurts to get easy buckets in transition."
Instead, Georgia's brutish frontline bullied the Cats all over the floor in a game that featured 50 personal fouls, three technical fouls and an intentional foul. Despite shooting 39 percent from the field, UGA hit 27-of-35 free throws and used four Rashad Wright three-pointers to keep UK under their thumb.
"We leave Rashad (Wright) open and he hit some big threes," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "That broke our backs. Those are demoralizing plays."
Wright, the senior point guard Smith has long been impressed with, twice drilled huge long-range bombs as UK tried to close the gap. The first came after UK pulled to within 39-38 with just under 10 minutes left when Wright set up in the right corner and swished a three. The second typified UK's lack of effort when, trailing by five with 2:58 left, Cliff Hawkins failed to close out on Wright and watched as he nailed another three from the right wing to push the lead back to eight.
"We got control of the temp at the beginning of the game so the crowd could never really get into it," Wright said. "We held our lead and made some key defensive stops."
The Cats never got into it, yet Smith wouldn't use UK's last-second win over Mississippi State four days earlier and late trip back as an excuse. Instead, Smith said it was Georgia's aggressiveness and defensive effort that his team didn't match.
"You've got to compliment Georgia," Smith said. "They played aggressive and physical and we didn't respond. We've got to match the intensity and physicality early in the game.
"They backed up and said, 'OK, we're going to play quarter-court and make you score over us.' Their physicality took a toll."
Gerald Fitch, who was UK's leading scorer at 18 points a game, had just 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting and struggled all game to get his shot off over 6-foot-7, 230 pound Damien Wilkins. Kelenna Azubuike, Cliff Hawkins, Josh Carrier and Antwain Barbour made a combined 5-of-24 shots between them as well.
As for Georgia and Felton, punching someone in the mouth never looked so good.
Lukasz Obrzut tangles with Chris Daniels
Gerald Fitch shoots