If Kentucky hopes to solidify its case to make the NCAA Tournament, it likely can’t afford a loss against Georgia on Saturday in Southeastern Conference play in Athens, Ga.
The Wildcats (16-8, 7-4 SEC) have been inconsistent all season, going 1-4 against ranked teams and 3-3 in road games.
But if there’s one team that Kentucky has consistently defeated, it’s Georgia (14-10, 4-7).
The Wildcats have bested the Bulldogs in 16 of the teams’ past 17 meetings, including an 85-71 win on Jan. 17 in Lexington, Ky.
Georgia enters the rematch reeling, having dropped six of its past seven games following a 78-74 loss to visiting Ole Miss on Tuesday.
Kentucky is coming off an 88-73 loss to visiting Arkansas on Tuesday in which the Wildcats were outscored 47-33 in the second half. The Razorbacks opened the final 20 minutes on a 17-10 run in which 12 of their points were scored on layups or dunks.
“I was just so disappointed,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the second-half effort. “Turnover, turnover, dunk, layup. I’m looking around, I’ve got to call a timeout a minute into the half, and literally like, come on, how did you lose that, how did you not get that ball?
“But you know, that’s why I said, okay, here we are, let’s fight our way back. We did some good things and got it close, seven and six and five, but the game was a physical game.”
Cason Wallace, who averages 12.3 points per game, scored a game-high 24, while Chris Livingston added 13 against the Razorbacks. Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves chipped in 11 points apiece, but Oscar Tshiebwe was held to just seven points, well below his team-leading 15.5 points per game.
It represents a two-game slump for Tshiebwe, who has just 11 points during the span.
Meanwhile, Georgia led by six with 13:39 left before gradually falling apart down the stretch against Ole Miss.
“Our physicality on the interior, our finishing of stops, our defensive rebounding, again, at the foul line,” Bulldogs coach Mike White said. “All of those are factors. Our shot-blocking and altering, our protection of the rim, those are all weaknesses for us.”
Georgia clearly struggled at times without leading scorer Terry Roberts (15.0 points per game), who missed his second straight game due to a concussion and will be a game-time decision against the Wildcats, according to White.
The Bulldogs were led by Braelen Bridges, who scored a career-high 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds, well above his season averages of 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Kario Oquendo, who averages 12.7 points per game, added 19 points and five rebounds, while Justin Hill added 13 points and a game-high seven assists against the Rebels.
–Field Level Media