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UK Basketball: 6 more thoughts and postgame notes from win over Georgia

The defense was the story of the game for UK.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Georgia Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky kicked off its SEC Tournament with a game against a red-hot Georgia team playing in its 3rd game in less than 48 hours.

However, the Cats were without their best rebounder in Jarred Vanderbilt due to an injury suffered in practice. Kentucky was able to get the win 62-49 to advance to Saturday.

In the first half, Kentucky started the game with the emphasis on trying to take SEC player of the year Yante Maten out of the game, and they did a good job of it through the first 20 minutes. They held Maten to 4 points on 1/6 shooting.

The Cats jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead but had some issues scoring the ball for most of the half. Without Vanderbilt available, it showed on the glass as the Cats struggled on the boards, getting out-rebounded 21-19 in the half and gave up nine offensive boards.

Those rebounds allowed Georgia to stay in the game and with just under four minutes left, Georgia took a 23-22 lead. However, it didn’t last very long as Kentucky ended the half on an 8-0 run to go into the break with a 30-23 lead.

Out of the break, Kentucky kept the pressure on and kept the run going. From the moment Georgia took a lead, Kentucky went on a 19-3 run. The offense was flowing well, and at the first media timeout, the Cats had built a 41-26 lead.

The Cats continued to play good defense on the Bulldogs and with just under 12 minutes to play, the Cats were working with a 47-33 lead. Georgia wouldn’t quit fighting and quickly cut into the lead while the Cats struggled to score.

At the under eight timeout, the Cats had a 54-41 lead and would be able to close out the game and get the win in their opening game in St. Louis.

Thoughts on the game

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was great

In the first half, the team would struggle to score at times, but then Shai would come through for the team and get a bucket. He had 10 points in the half and was a big reason the Cats had a lead. In the second half, he did a good job of getting his teammates involved as he finished with 15 points and racked up nine assists.

PJ Washington stepped up

With the absence of Vanderbilt, the team needed PJ to step up in a big way, and that’s exactly what he did. He had 18 points and seven rebounds to lead the team in scoring. On multiple occasions, they went to him down low, and he came through scoring with ease most times. If Vanderbilt remains out, UK will need PJ to continue to perform like he did in this one.

Kevin Knox was aggressive

With March here, it’s go time, and the best players must show up every game ready to go. With Knox being the go-to guy he needs to step up, and that’s what he did today. In this one, he was looking for his shot and knocking them down as he finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. It was clear he was ready to take on a bigger rebounding role with Jarred Vanderbilt out.

Kentucky took care of the ball

Through the year turnovers have been an issue, but in this one, the Cats did a good job of not giving the Bulldogs free possessions. Kentucky on turned it over five times while forcing Georgia into 11 turnovers. For a team that’s struggled to play great on either side of the floor this season, not turning the ball over is a must. That was critical in a game UK’s offense was off.

Quade Green was off

You could argue this was the worst game of the season for freshman point guard Quade Green. He failed to score a point and finished 0 of five from the field with one assist and three fouls. It was the first time Green hasn’t scored this season, and it’s just the third time he hasn’t hit a field goal. That can’t continue if UK is going to win the SEC Tournament and make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky locked up Yante Maten

Maten has given the Cats fits over his career at Georgia, and today, the Cats took him out of the game. They held him to 9 points on 2/10 shooting and four rebounds. It was obvious Cal wanted to make the other players beat them and the team executed to perfection.

Now, the Kentucky Wildcats will face the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday at 1 pm with the winner advancing to the championship game on Sunday. Alabama is playing their best basketball of the season right now, so Kentucky will have to be locked in if they want to get the win.

Now, here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 22-10 overall. Georgia is 18-15 overall.
  • Kentucky leads the series 126-26 and has won 11 in a row vs. the Bulldogs.
  • Next for the Wildcats: Kentucky takes on Alabama in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST in St. Louis). The game will be televised on ESPN.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, PJ Washingtonand Nick Richards for the 12th time this season. UK is 7-5 with this lineup.
  • Wenyen Gabriel hit a 3-pointer with 13:23 on the clock, extending UK’s streak of 1,045 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
  • It was a back-and-forth first half until UK closed with an 8-0 run to take a 30-23 advantage into intermission. It was the largest lead of the half for either team.
  • UK is now 15-3 this season when leading at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • Gabriel opened the second half with a 3-pointer, sparking an 11-3 run that made the score 41-26 and coaxed a Georgia timeout at the 16:28 mark.
  • Shortly thereafter, UK increased the margin to 17 points on three occasions, the last at 47-30.
  • At that point, the Wildcats went cold and Georgia got back in the game with a 6-0 run to make it 47-36.
  • UK kept the lead in double digits until Georgia scored with 1:27 left to make it 58-49 but the Bulldogs got no closer.

Team Notes

  • The story of the game was UK’s defense, holding Georgia to 49 points – a season low for the Bulldogs and the lowest point total of the season by a UK opponent.
  • Georgia shot just 28.3 percent from the field, again a season low for the Bulldogs and the lowest percentage this season by a UK opponent.
  • Georgia shot 26.1 percent from 3-point range today, 6 of 23. UK entered the game third in the nation in 3-point defense at 29.7 percent.
  • UK held Yante Maten, SEC Player of the Year, to nine points and four rebounds. He came into the game averaging 19.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest.
  • UK is 64-0 under Coach John Calipari when keeping opponents to 55 or fewer points.
  • UK is now 165-14 under Calipari when keeping the opponent under 40 percent from the field.
  • UK had a season-low five turnovers today and is 11-0 this season when committing 11 or fewer miscues.
  • UK is 12-1 this season when the Wildcats have more assists than turnovers.
  • UK led by as many as 17 points today. The Wildcats are 229-5 under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points during a game.
  • UK is 44-12 in “bounce back” games under Calipari following a loss.

In the SEC Tournament

  • Kentucky has an all-time record of 131-25 in the SEC Tournament, and has won 10 in a row, including the last three championships.
  • UK is 44-11 in quarterfinals games.
  • UK is 12-1 vs. Georgia in the SEC Tournament, including 6-0 in quarterfinals games.
  • Coach Calipari is 20-3 in the SEC Tournament.

Looking Ahead to Saturday

  • Kentucky will take on Alabama on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST).
  • UK is 41-2 in SEC Tournament semifinal games.
  • UK leads the Alabama series, 111-37, and has won nine in a row vs. the Crimson Tide.
  • UK is 15-2 vs. Alabama in the SEC Tournament, including 6-0 in the semifinals.
  • This will be the third year in a row that the teams have played in the SEC Tournament. UK defeated Alabama 85-59 in the 2016 quarterfinals and 79-74 in the 2017 semifinals.
  • Earlier this season on Feb. 17, UK defeated Alabama, 81-71, in Lexington. PJ Washington and Donta Hall led their respective teams with 16 points each.

Player Notes

  • PJ Washington continued his steady play, leading the Wildcats with 18 points and adding seven rebounds.
  • He has scored double figures and grabbed at least five rebounds in each of the last seven games.
  • Kevin Knox tallied 15 points and led the Wildcats with nine rebounds.
  • He is averaging 17.9 points over the last eight games.
  • He has 501 points this season, 12th-most by a UK freshman in a season.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander often was able to drive and score, finishing with 15 points and a game-high nine assists.
  • He is averaging 16.2 points and 7.6 assists over the last five games.
  • Hamidou Diallo scored seven points, including a huge 3-pointer when Georgia cut the lead to 11 in the second half.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has a 716-203 all-time on-court record.
  • Calipari is now 271-63 at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 16-2 vs. Georgia in his career