Meeks drives on Corey Butler
Kentucky avoided the let down that is always possible coming off a big win, taking care of business during their trip to Athens, Georgia, coming away with a 23-point victory, which saw Coach Gillispie use his bench extensively in the final five minutes of play.
When Billy Gillispie conducted his pre-Georgia press conference he spoke of the game with the Bulldogs as being a possible “trap” game. After all, the Cats were coming off a big win over rival Tennessee in Knoxville, where Jodie Meeks set the Kentucky single game scoring record with 54 points.
Gillispie had said, "I am not saying this is a trap game, but there are some traps out there. I want people to understand that there are some traps out there that Jodie could get caught up in or our team could get caught in. I'm not talking about the end result of winning or losing, but how we go about playing the game and there is a big difference there. We could be at our emotional peak and played the best we can play and still get beat because Georgia is still a very good team. They can expose some weaknesses that have been exposed to us before. I'm not talking about a trap game, but some psychological traps we could get caught in. For any team, I think you have to be concerned about who you are play after playing one of your biggest rivals. I don't want to think that we don't have the greatest respect for Georgia. They knocked us out of the SEC tournament last year, when we wanted to play in that tournament for a lot longer time. They did it with hard-nosed defense, great coaching and timely play. We are going to their home court and playing a desperate team, so we will need to play our best. They went on the road and played Vanderbilt and held them to 50 points. They beat Vanderbilt when they had A.J. Ogilvy while whipping them on the boards. Believe me, we have great respect for Georgia and if they beat us then it was not because we didn't approach it in the right way."
The points Gillispie made in his pre-Georgia press conference were obviously hammered into the minds of the Kentucky players.
Kentucky jumped out to a 16-4 lead and never looked back. By the end of the first half a mini-run stretched the lead above the 20-point mark, before Zac Swansey hit a layup with five-seconds left to pull the Bulldogs to within 19 at the half, 38-19. Woodbury hit a layup ten seconds into the second half, to trim the lead to 38-21; but a 20-seconds later a three by Meeks pushed the lead to over twenty points. Georgia would trail by twenty or more for the remainder of the game; with the Kentucky lead growing to as much as 28-points.
Georgia played its usual tenacious defense in limiting the Cats to 68 points, below their season average, but the Cats were never seriously challenged beyond the opening moments of the game.
Patrick Patterson, came in as the SEC’s leading field goal percentage shooter, but was harassed in the paint by the big bulky players the Dawgs put on him throughout the game. Despite the harassment Patterson still put up 15 points on 7-15 from the field.
Jodie Meeks came off the big game at Tennessee and was the recipient of a lot of attention by the Georgia defense, especially Corey Butler, and was held to sixteen shot attempts for the game. Meeks hit paydirt on 50% of those attempts and was 3-4 from the charity stripe for 22 points. The free throw miss stopped his consecutive made free throws streak by Meeks at 38.
While Patterson and Meeks were receiving a lot of defensive attention juniors Perry Stevenson and Michael Porter were overlooked at times by the Bulldogs. Stevenson scored 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting, nailing his only three-point field goal, and was perfect from the line on four attempts. Porter only attempted two field goals officially, making one of those, but was perfect from the stripe on five attempts and scored 7 points. More importantly Porter did not have a turnover against the rough and tough Georgia defense.
Ramon Harris appeared to have a subpar game, as he only took one shot in the game and went scoreless with three boards and an equal number of turnovers. Harris was no doubt impacted by his defensive assignment guarding Georgia’s leading scorer Terrance Woodbury, who has been a thorn in the side of the Wildcats in the past, was held to 8 points on 4-14 from the field. It marks only the second time one the season Woodbury failed to reach double figures.
An active Darius Miller once again played well off the bench, scoring four points and playing solid defense. DeAndre Liggins added two points, but also pulled down four rebounds and dished out four assists. Josh Harrellson scored four points in seven solid minutes of play. Kevin Galloway was held to one point, on 1-3 shooting from the charity stripe, but was active on defense and dished out three assists in his ten minutes of playing time.
A.J. Stewart and Jared Carter saw action, but failed to score.
Former Oak Hill star freshman Howard Thompkins, better known as Trey, was held to seven points, hitting only three of nine attempts from the field.
Dustin Ware came off the bench and nailed a pair of threes, in route to 7 points.
Kentucky shot 48% on the game, and held the Dawgs to 31%. Kentucky won the battle of the boards 33-26. Once again the Wildcats showed a knack for challenging shots by blocking 11 shots, in contrast with UGa had one block on the afternoon.
Tenacious defense played by both teams made the game sloppy, and assists hard to come by as passes did not come without being challenged. Georgia committed 19 turnovers and Kentucky had a similar number of errors with 18. The Wildcats dished out 13 assists, led by Liggins with four. The 13 assists were five off their season average. The Dawgs dropped 11 dimes, but Swansey, who came in ranked among the league leaders in assists was held to two assists by the Kentucky defense.
The Cats, who are normally deadly from the charity stripe, appeared to have an off day; but still connected on nearly 77% of their free throw attempts. Georgia shot an extremely poor 4 of 11 from the line.
The win gives the Wildcats a 14-4 record on the season, and they remain undefeated in SEC play going to 3-0 in the league, but more importantly they are 2-0 on the road. Georgia falls to 9-9 on the season and 0-3 in the league, and has lost two home games. In order to compete for SEC championships it is imperative for teams to take care of business at home and win more than their share of road games. Last season in route to a 12-4 SEC record the Wildcats were undefeated at Rupp.
Kentucky returns home to Rupp Arena to face SEC West foe the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday. The game is set for a 9:00 pm tip, and will be televised by Raycom and the Big Blue Sports Network will call the game on the radio.