Thanks to a strong final two minutes by freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins, the Kentucky Wildcats (16-0, 1-0 SEC) held off the Georgia Bulldogs (8-6, 0-1 SEC), 76-68, Saturday afternoon in each team’s first SEC contest of the season. Cousins scored 7 of his 16 total points over the final 2:43, including 5 free throws and a huge lay up with 36 seconds remaining to put the Cats up four, 72-68. John Wall would close the game out with two free throws and a run out dunk for the final four points.
Junior Patrick Patterson also had a strong game for Kentucky, finishing with 17 points (a team-high) and nine rebounds (tied for a team-high with Cousins).
Despite the close finish, Kentucky actually jumped out to an early lead, going up by as many as eleven early in the first half.
Georgia played a relatively packed-in zone against Kentucky for the entire game, and it worked quite well. Kentucky shot just 2-of-14 from three-point land, and until the final two minutes—thanks to some foul trouble on three of Georgia’s big men—had trouble getting anything going inside as well. For the game, the Wildcats were 26-60 (43 percent) from the floor.
Georgia had trouble getting anything to go right offensively in the early going. If it hadn’t been for Travis Leslie—who scored the first 10 of the game for UGA—the Bulldogs would’ve been in major trouble.
However, after Kentucky got out to a 21-10 lead with 10:41 remaining in the first half, Georgia started to knock down some shots. A three-pointer by Vincent Williams at the 9:24 mark cut Kentucky’s lead to eight, and by the time Ricky McPhee hit his second trey with 5:41 left to go in the first, Georgia had taken the lead, 25-24.
Georgia would outscore Kentucky 25-13 over the final ten minutes to take a 35-34 lead into halftime.
The second half score would stay extremely close until the final two minutes, when Georgia would lose their third big man to foul trouble, and Kentucky would start to take full advantage of Cousins’ size advantage inside. The foul trouble, along with connecting on just one field goal in the final six minutes would be the Georgia’s undoing.
As for Kentucky, their potential undoing continues to be their defense; specifically, their defending of the three-point line. But more on this later.