- Saturday, January 15 2005 -
Kentucky - 76 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 9th by AP]
Georgia - 55 (Head Coach: Dennis Felton) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 35, Georgia 23
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt 69 - 54|||||Mississippi 53 - 50|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats dominate the paint in 76-55 win over UGA
ATHENS, Ga. Ð It took less than a week, but the Kentucky basketball team has gone from a sputtering offensive (as in dreadful) unit to a sleek, precision-based machine that is carving up the Southeastern Conference.
UK (12-2, 3-0 SEC) roared past a Georgia team strapped by scholarship restrictions by the NCAA, shooting over 70 percent deep into the contest en route to a 76-55 pasting in front of a sparse crowd of 9,014 at Stegeman Coliseum.
Coming on the heels of perhaps their best offensive display of the season against Vanderbilt, the Cats made 14-of-20 shots in the first half and stood at 25-of-36 (69.4) with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Just six days removed from a horrific offensive performance in a loss to Kansas, it appears the Cats learned a valuable lesson from the Jayhawks.
"We are taking better shots," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "I think the kids learned their lesson in the Kansas game. We took 16 or 18 horrible shots (against Kansas). We had to correct that right away because that's contagious."
The harsh reality of the Kansas game has reincarnated itself in the form of a more unselfish, patient and fluid attack. While passing had been a thorn in the Cats' side all season long, they have assisted 35 times on 56 field goals in the two games since, including 19 dimes on 30 made shots against the Bulldogs. It's a trend that can be explained as easily as making the extra pass.
"As far as our shot selection, guys have been passing the ball more," sophomore center Shagari Alleyne said. "Guys have been more open. It's patience and looking for the open man."
There were plenty of open men against Georgia, which is feeling the effects of losing a boatload of experience from a year ago without being able to replace it all because of NCAA sanctions. Those facts lent themselves to the Cats having a field day in the paint, where UK scored 21 field goals on either dunks or lay-ins. During the Cats' game-sealing 17-2 run early in the second half to give them a 57-31 lead, UK converted seven such baskets, including five dunks.
"We had a disadvantage in size," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "We were too passive pretty much right out of the gates. We let the game come too easy for Kentucky."
The Cats accepted the generosity with gratitude, sprinting out of the blocks to an 18-6 lead that saw six different players score. Only the fact that UK had 10 first half turnovers kept the score from being more lopsided than the 35-23 lead at intermission. The edge continued to balloon throughout the second half until the bench was emptied, which shortened the lead and dropped UK's final shooting percentage to 55.6 percent.
The blowout victory also gave Smith a chance to mix and match with his lineups, which at one point saw 6-foot-10 freshman Randolph Morris and the 7-foot-3 Alleyne in the game at the same time. Smith also played freshman guard Ramel Bradley a career-high 21 minutes, which was rewarded with Bradley scoring a career-high 14 points.
"I was really pleased with Ramel," Smith said. "He showed a lot of poise and patience. He's got the skills. I was glad to see him step up and be productive."
It seems as though all of the Cats are beginning to step forward and mold themselves into the kind of team Smith expects. And it only took a week to get the message.
Patrick Sparks had to find it a little surreal that he was on the opposite bench as his former coach, but the junior guard certainly didn't let it affect his play.
Sparks, who played for Georgia coach Dennis Felton for two years at Western Kentucky before both moved on, knocked down a three-pointer just 45 seconds into the contest on his way to 15 points and five assists against the Bulldogs.
"Playing against (Felton) was a little emotional," the understated Sparks said. "We're close. We are still friends."
The 15-point outburst was the highest total since Sparks scored 25 against Louisville and the first time he made more than half of his shots since then as well.
If you question just how dire of straits Georgia's roster is in this season, you ought to know that the Bulldogs spent a portion of the first half with four walk-ons on the floor together.
Patrick Sparks sneaks by Levi Stukes for a basket
Rajon Rondo (#4) dunks over Georgia's Younes Idrissi
Shagari Alleyne (#21) scores inside