- Wednesday, January 24 2007 -
Kentucky - 69 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Georgia - 78 (Head Coach: Dennis Felton) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 43, Georgia 30
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Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats blow 17-point lead, lose in overtime
ATHENS, Ga. - If Kentucky's once-promising season goes by the wayside over the final six weeks the Cats will potentially look back on a January night in Georgia as the beginning of the end.
UK blew a 14-point second half lead, losing 78-69 to Georgia in overtime at Stegeman Coliseum. The Cats (15-5, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) led by as many as 17 points late in the first half but were taken apart by the Bulldogs in a furious rally over the game's final 11 minutes.
Leading 52-38 with 12:54 remaining to play, UK was outscored 25-6 over the next nine-plus minutes in falling behind 63-58. The Cats rallied on Joe Crawford's eight consecutive points (his only points of the second half after a 17-point first half) but it only staved off defeat for five more minutes.
"We just have to find a way to finish games," junior center Randolph Morris said. "We have no problem starting games out but we do with finishing. Coach (Tubby Smith) always says the most insignificant score is the halftime score. That's what it boils down to."
The Cats' second straight defeat came in shocking fashion. Once a team that rarely crumbled down the stretch of games the Cats came apart at the seams after halftime when the Bulldogs clamped down on defense and took the game right at UK. After shooting 56.7 percent in the first half on its way to a 43-30 edge, UK made only 9-of-27 shots in the second half and overtime.
"We didn't look to attack the basket," Crawford, who tallied a career-high 29 points, said. "We settled for outside shots.
"This is tough. We've got to finish."
Coming off a game where it blew a 16-point lead at Alabama, Georgia recovered from a dreadful first half and mimicked the Crimson Tide's trick. The Bulldogs scored the final four points of the first half to keep UK's lead manageable and then burst out of the gate in the second half with a quick 8-0 run the cut the deficit to 43-38 with 16:34 remaining.
"I don't have many words left," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "It all happened so fast. In a nutshell, the first half was the worst we played all year, but we managed to go into halftime down just 13. In the second half it was more like the Georgia Bulldogs."
UK steadied itself after Georgia's first run when freshman Jodie Meeks, from nearby Norcross, Ga., buried two three-pointers to push the lead back out to 50-38. Morris added two free throws to cap a 9-0 UK run and restore the Cats' 14-point lead with 11:53 remaining.
That's when things fell apart for the Cats. Georgia's Takais Brown ignited the Bulldogs' game-turning run with a dunk after an offensive rebound and capped a 10-0 spurt with an off-balance bank shot that closed the lead to 53-50. After Ramel Bradley scored his only points of the game on a runout lay-in Georgia scored another seven in a row, five of which came off second chances.
"Give Georgia credit, they out-toughed us and out-fought us in just about every category," Smith said. "Rebounding, loose balls, we didn't box out and allowed second shots.
"I think it was more mental than anything. We've got to make plays and made stops and we didn't do that."
Still, UK had its chances in the closing minutes of regulation. Trailing 65-60, Crawford his a three from the corner that bounced on the rim three times before falling through and connected on a reverse lay-in in transition to tie the score at 65 with 2:15 left. After getting a stop UK had a chance to take the lead but Sheray Thomas' entry pass to Morris was stolen by Steve Newman. The Cats got a second opportunity when Meeks intercepted a pass but his attempted bounce pass to Bradley on the break was swiped by Sundiata Gaines near midcourt with 40 seconds left.
Gaines, who scored 16 of his 19 points after halftime, was fouled by missed both of his two free throws. In a telling turn of events, Gaines rebounded his own miss to give Georgia one more chance but his 18-footer over Morris missed to end regulation.
UK scored the first basket of overtime on a Crawford steal and lay-in but the Bulldogs outscored UK 13-2 the rest of the way, five of the points coming as the shot clock buzzer blared in the background.
"Those kind of shots take the air out of you," Morris said. "To play defense for 34 seconds and then a prayer goes inÉ"
Morris, who fouled out after scoring just 11 points and hauling in two rebounds, thought for a moment as his voice tailed off. The two boards were his lowest total since failing to grab one against Auburn on Jan. 24, 2006.
"This is a tough loss but you know, you have to find a way (to recover)," Morris said. "You have to find a way and get past it. I think our future is still up in the air."
Sheray Thomas battles Georgia's Albert Jackson (34) and Steve Newman (15)
Sundiata Gaines drives in the lane against Ramel Bradley
Randolph Morris battles UGa's Steve Newman