Just two weeks after the No. 15 ranked Kentucky men's basketball team defeated the University of Georgia by nine in Athens, the Cats moved to 2-0 over the Dawgs on the season after an 89-79 victory Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.
"This team became empowered during that last game," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "And now I think they're feeling that it's about each other."
The 2020 Wildcats are no stranger to seeing a steady lead fizzle away, and that was the case again in this matchup with Georgia. The Cats opened up with a 6-0 lead and pushed it to 10-2 around four minutes in. They would hold their lead, extending it by as many as 10 at the 12:15 mark, but by the time there was about six minutes left in the half, Kentucky saw its lead boil down to just one.
At the half, Kentucky held a 41-35 lead over the Bulldogs. An issue for the Cats was getting beat on the glass-- Georgia outrebounded UK 19-17 in the half, and had 10 second chance points compared to the Cats' four. Eight of Kentucky's nine players with minutes had at least one rebound, but nobody had more than three. Richards led with 10 points and three rebounds, while Hagans was behind him with nine points and five assists.
Georgia head coach Tom Crean says his message to his team at halftime was to just keep on doing what they were doing.
"We got some good plays," Crean said. "We just had a couple of tough stretches and other than that we were right there. I was very confident with how our team was playing at halftime."
The Kentucky first-half defense is certainly something to mention, as the Cats the held Georgia freshman star Anthony Edwards scoreless in the first half. He was contained to 0-for-5 from the field with zero rebounds, one assist and three turnovers.
"It's hard for young guys, especially when you're being, everybody's paying special attention to him," Calipari said of Edwards. "So now all of a sudden every pick and roll they hold it a lot longer, every drive they're leaving other men to go get him, so it's like he's playing a box and one and he still gets baskets. It tells you how good he is."
UK maintained a steady lead over the Dawgs for the entire second half-- despite Edwards heating up. After going scoreless in the first half, the freshman finished with 16 points and scored nine of those points in just four minutes.
Four Kentucky players scored in double figures as Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley and EJ Montgomery scored 23, 20, 12 and 10 points, respectively, against the Bulldogs. Hagans also added a game-high nine assists and Richards led the Cats with eight boards.
"It's great when me and Nick are both playing well," Montgomery said. "You know, that's when the team is blossoming and we just have to go out there and try to do that every game."
Kentucky also saw efficient minutes out of bench players Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang, who combined for 14 points.
"But I love the fact that Keion has stepped in now and been that third big," Calipari said. "And it's what I told them. I said, Look, if someone's playing well, they're staying in and you have to accept it. When you get your chance, go in there and perform."
Next up for the Cats is a tough road test in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge as they head to Lubbock, Texas to take on the Texas Tech Raiders. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. and ESPN will have the broadcast.