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Kentucky Basketball: Postgame notes and 4 more thoughts on narrow win over Georgia

Kentucky escapes the SEC opener with a close win over Georgia

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Just two days after Kentucky put on an amazing offensive performance against rival Louisville, the Cats struggle to get a basket in the SEC opener at Rupp against Georgia.

In the first half, neither team was having success on the offensive end as Kentucky didn’t reach double figures until the 13:14 mark in the first half.

Quade Green scored right around half of Kentucky’s first half points and Georgia failed to make a three in the half. Kentucky ended the half with some momentum and found themselves only down 27-26 at the break.

The second half wasn’t much better for either team. Georgia kept extending the lead and the Cats would battle back but could never seem to get over the hump.

Finally, with 8:05 left in the game the Cats took their first lead of the second half 47-46. Georgia never quit but Kentucky was able to overcome their shooting woes and get the win in the conference opener 66-61.

Here are four more thoughts on the game:

Shooting was brutal

Kentucky struggled to score throughout the game and luckily so did Georgia. Kentucky was only 17-of-54 (31.5%) from the field and 5-of-16 (31.3%) from three. The Cats could never get into a rhythm offensively and found themselves taking a lot of tough shots. Georgia going 2-of-21 from behind the arc went a long way to helping the Cats pull out this win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel saved the day

For the second game in a row Shai was a beast on the floor and today Wenyen made his mark on the game. Shai was getting to the rim and drawing contact. He went to the line 13 times and cashed in on 12 of them and finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Wenyen did his part by providing the energy and added a spark off the bench. Gabriel grabbed 10 boards and hit a very clutch 3 late in the game to seal it for the Cats.

Kentucky won the rebound battle 42-38

To me it felt like Kentucky was getting dominated on the glass but in the end won the overall battle and that went a long way to making the difference on the scoreboard. Rebounding is going to make a big difference as the Cats move on through the conference schedule.

Free throws made a difference

Kentucky was 27-of-38 (71.1%) from the foul line, and those 27 points helped keep the Cats in it and allowed them to have a chance late and they capitalized on it and won the game. Four of their misses was down the stretch when Diallo went to the line and in a close game like that he must make them to put the game on ice.

Stat leaders:

Points: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander- 21

Rebounds: Wenyen Gabriel and Hamidou Diallo- 10

Assists: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander- 4

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 11-2 and has won two in a row. Georgia is 9-3. This was the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
  • Kentucky leads the series 125-26 and has won 10 in a row vs. the Bulldogs.
  • UK leads the series 61-5 in Lexington.
  • Kentucky begins the new year on Wednesday at LSU. Game time is 8:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. CST in Baton Rouge, La.) and it will be televised on the SEC Network.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the 11th time this season. UK is 9-2 with this lineup.
  • Georgia got off to a good start, scoring the first six points of the game.
  • With the Wildcats trailing 10-4, Georgia went scoreless for more than six minutes while UK’s Green scored eight straight points to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 12-10.
  • Green connected on a 3-pointer with 13:40 remaining, giving Kentucky 1,026 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
  • Georgia regained the lead and had its largest advantage at 27-20 before UK scored the last six points of the half.
  • Green had 13 points in the first half, tying his highest scoring first half of the season (Vermont).
  • Wenyen Gabriel came off the bench to claim eight rebounds, the best rebounding first half of any Wildcat this season. (Originally credited with nine on halftime box, revision came later.)
  • UK is 3-2 this season when trailing at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • After going 0 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, Georgia opened the second stanza with two straight long balls to stretch the Bulldog lead to 33-26. Ironically, it was the only two 3-pointers that Georgia hit all night.
  • UK has held its last two opponents to 5 of 46 from behind the arc.
  • The Dogs continued hot, scoring on their first five possessions to go up 39-31.
  • Trailing 42-34, Kentucky gradually worked its way back and got the lead back at 47-46 with eight minutes to play.
  • Again trailing, this time at 53-49, UK’s 7-0 spurt gave the Cats a lead they would not relinquish at 56-53.
  • Ahead 58-57, UK got a driving layup by Gilgeous-Alexander with 1:56 to go, a 3-pointer by Gabriel at the 1:08 mark, and a foul shot by Gilgeous-Alexander with 37 seconds on the clock to push the cushion to 64-57.

Team Notes

  • UK held Georgia to 61 points. UK is 150-5 under Coach John Calipari when the opponent scores 63 or fewer points.
  • UK held Georgia to 39.7 percent from the field. UK is 6-1 this season when keeping the opponent under 40 percent.
  • UK limited Georgia to 2 of 21 from 3-point range, 9.5 percent.
  • The last time UK held an opponent to that few 3-pointers was Jan. 21, 2016 at Arkansas, when the Razorbacks made 2 of 12.
  • The last time UK held an opponent under 10 percent from long range was Nov. 13, 2015, when Albany made 7.1 percent (1 of 14).
  • UK outrebounded Georgia 42-38. The Wildcats have tied or outrebounded the opponent in 11 of 13 games this season.
  • UK won tonight despite shooting a season-low 31.5 percent from the field.
  • UK made 27 of 38 at the foul line, season highs in both categories.
  • UK had a season-low nine turnovers. After struggling in that department earlier in the season, UK is averaging just 11.2 miscues over the last four games.
  • Despite the concern about emotional letdown after playing rival Louisville, UK is 11-0 under Coach Calipari in the game immediately following the Cardinals.
  • Kentucky has won 15 in a row in Rupp Arena.

Player Notes

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played the super-sub role again, coming off the bench to post game highs with 21 points, four assists and three steals.
  • He had 24 points, four assists and three steals Friday vs. Louisville.
  • Hamidou Diallo had 10 points, his seventh consecutive game in double figures. He is averaging 17.6 points per game during that stretch.
  • Diallo also snagged nine rebounds, one shy of his career high.
  • Quade Green carried the offense in the first half and finished with 15 points. It is his eighth double-figure game of the season.
  • Wenyen Gabriel contributed six points and 11 rebounds, his third double-figure board game of the season.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has a 705-195 all-time on-court record.
  • Calipari is now 260-55 at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 144-6 at Rupp Arena, including 126-3 against unranked opponents.
  • Calipari is 15-2 vs. Georgia in his career.