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Kentucky Basketball

Cats Pull Away Late for 78-69 Win in Athens

January 7, 2020
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Kentucky has now won 13 games in a row over Georgia, as they went down to Athens and won 78-69 before a fired-up Stegeman Coliseum crowd. Kentucky overcame terrible free throw shooting, first-half foul trouble, and a 6-point halftime deficit, to move to 2-0 in SEC play, and 11-3 over-all. This game was again, a homecoming for Ashton Hagans, and he was a bit shaky early, missing a slew of long jumpers, but he settled in and ran the show nicely, getting 4 steals and dishing out 5 assists, with just 2 turnovers. Georgia’s super-talented freshman, Anthony Edwards, proved to be tough to handle but settled for outside jumpers at critical times in the 2nd half, but still totaled 23 points on 17 shots from the field. He looked to get tired in the middle of the second half and never was able to give Georgia the final spurt they needed to pull off the upset of 14th-ranked UK. Edwards went from the 13:48 mark to the 1:59 mark in the second half without a point, and that was probably the key to winning for UK.

The Cats started the game pretty well, but shaky from outside, as Ashton Hagans fired three early threes and the Cats, even looking a bit unsettled, still led early 12-7 before Georgia caught fire and UK fouls started to mount up, as Georgia went on a 9-0 run. Two quick fouls on Nate Sestina hurt UK’s inside depth, and scoring ability. Then, Nick Richards picked up his 2nd foul, and the Cats were forced to play perimeter offense and drive relentlessly. The Cats were able to drive to the basket and finish at times, as Maxey and Hagans were able to get into the lane, but not enough shots were falling over-all, and Kentucky was unable to get many free throw opportunities, only going 1-3 from the line in the half. Although UK was converting early inside, the offense dried up, and Georgia moved out to a 37-28 lead late, after a pair of dunks and a layup, which had the Dogs on an 11-2 run before Ashton Hagans’ last-second three brought the halftime score to 37-31, Georgia. The Georgia players were celebrating as if the game was over, popping their jerseys, and UK seemed to take that to heart in the 2nd half.

In the second half, Kentucky took control with contributions from its core nucleus of Hagans, Maxey, Quickley, and Richards. Richards scored 13 in the second half, as he was able to stay out of foul trouble. Quickley hit a huge three with 4 minutes left to give UK a 5 point lead, as he scored 12 second half points himself. Maxey had 9 second half points, hitting a big three of his own, to pull UK within two with 9:25 left. The second half overall had much better flow, without whistles stopping play as often. The Cats shot only 50% from the free throw line for the game, shooting 10-20. It seemed, at times, free throw shooting would doom the Cats, but the offense came alive and took advantage of some run-outs and poor help-defense by Georgia. UK repeatedly got into the lane and made the extra pass for lobs or out to open shooters, who drained the shots. Nate Sestina also came up with some huge plays down the stretch on both ends, including a three early in the half and a huge jumper from the left side with 2:20 remaining, to help the Cats pull away in the last 6 minutes, after Georgia scored on a layup to bring them within 2, at 63-61. From there, the Cats made hustle plays, getting rebounds, run-out baskets, and hitting enough free throws to finally seal the win, finishing the game on a 15-8 run. The Cats won the second half by 15 points, blitzing the Dogs 47-32. 

What is now sort of becoming the “Big 4” for UK, Hagans, Maxey, Quickley, and Richards combined for 62 points. Nate Sestina’s 8 points and 7 rebounds, with 0 turnovers was also a welcome sight. EJ Montgomery, again struggled to get much going, shooting 1-3 for 2 points, but he did pull in 7 rebounds. Kahlil Whitney played spot minutes and got lost on a few plays defensively, so Kahlil is still trying to figure things out in his freshman season. Keion Brooks did some good things, especially early, as he finished with 6 points, but just 1 rebound. UK lost the rebound battle in the first half badly, 24-17, but recovered to win total rebounding 41-35 for the game. The Cats finished with very solid #’s everywhere but at the free throw line, where they had been shooting over 80% coming into tonight. Kentucky shot 50% over-all, 50% from three, and 50% from the free throw line. UK tallied 18 assisists against 12 turnovers, had 7 steals and 6 blocks. UK held Georgia to 42% over-all and just 22% from three for the game. All-in-all it was a very gutsy win on the road, where the Cats had to overcome several instances of adversity, a hostile road crowd, and lots of momentum changing plays throughout the game. Calipari and the BBN have to be happy with how the Cats responded in their first time on an opponent’s floor this season. UK’s next game comes back in Rupp Arena on Saturday, as the Cats take on Alabama at noon, on ESPN.

 

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Cats Pull Away Late for 78-69 Win in Athens

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