Tuesday in Athens was an exhilarating win for a Kentucky team that had yet to face a true road game this season.
Despite facing a sellout crowd in Athens on Pom Pom Night in the house of presumed No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Anthony Edwards, the young Wildcats showed immense fight and a will to win in what turned into a dogfight of an SEC slobberknocker.
While the Wildcats would go on to win by what looked like a comfortable 78-69 margin, it was far from easy in a game that saw the Dawgs leading for much of the first 30 minutes.
It looked like that would continue for the final 10 minutes when Georgia gained possession off a steal and were on the fastbreak with a 55-50 lead and seemingly about to go up by seven.
But a few inches proved to be the difference between Georgia taking command with under 10 to play and Kentucky going on a 13-2 run to go in front for good, as Ashton Hagans intercepted a Jordan Harris pass that Immanuel Quickley recovered and hit an open Tyrese Maxey for three, cutting Georgia’s lead to 55-53.
This was a massive sequence in the game: pic.twitter.com/Kxrc79HWJM— Jason Marcum (@marcum89) January 8, 2020
If Hagans misses that pass, it’s likely a 57-50 lead for Georgia and all the pressure in the world riding on Kentucky to make a shot in the ensuing possession. Instead, Hagans recover from his bad pass to make a game-saving INT that led to a triple as part of a 13-2 run that saw the Wildcats go ahead 63-57.
Kentucky actually outscored Georgia 28-14 from that point on en route to a 78-69 victory.
Now, the Cats return home Saturday to face Alabama with a chance to begin 3-0 in SEC play. While that may not sound like anything to brag about, it would be just the fifth time a John Calipari Kentucky team has accomplished this. The other four teams (2016-17, 2014-15, 2011-12, 2009-10) all won 30+ games and made the Elite Eight, while two of them made the Final Four, and the 2011-12 team won it all.
That’s not to say this Kentucky teams will accomplish any of this, but it’s still good company to be in.