January 24, 2012

Cats roll Dawgs

From a strictly physical standpoint, Tuesday night's meeting between Georgia and top-ranked Kentucky turned out just about like one would expect.

The Wildcats strolled to an easy 57-44 victory over the Bulldogs (10-10, 1-5), a game where Kentucky used its defense to hold Georgia to a season-low in points scored.

"They (Kentucky) shot the ball well there for a stretch there in the first half, but they just overpower you. When you're 2-guard is as big as (Darius) Miller is and (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist at the 3, and those guys are the size of power forwards, they just overpower you," Bulldog head coach Mark Fox said. "Defensively they can switch anything and always have a size advantage in their length, and (Anthony) Davis around the basket it such a protector of the basket. They've got some terrific defensive pieces and they use them well together."

Ironically, the Wildcats (20-1, 6-0) offense wasn't up to their typical standards, either.

Kentucky entered the contest second in the SEC in scoring (79.5 points per game), but only shot 43.8 percent against the Bulldogs, which despite their shooting problems, almost played the Wildcats even in the second half (UK outscored Georgia 19-18).

The trouble was, Kentucky outscored Georgia 38-26 in the first, including 15 of the half's final 18 points.

"In the first 10 or 12 minutes of the first half, we competed pretty well," Fox said. "But we had a burp there late in the first half where we were never able to get back in stride. We played them pretty even from that point on but that little burp at the end of the first half as extremely costly."

The Wildcats also did a number on leading scorers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Gerald Robinson Jr., who came in averaging 14.7 and 13.8 points, respectively. Against Kentucky, Caldwell-Pope managed just seven and Robinson six.

"I felt like both Kentavious and Gerald got caught up in the moment a little bit, but they were obviously a focal point of their defense. Their length and their switching certainly limited the good looks at the basket," Fox said. "I felt like Gerald took some shots when maybe there was one more pass in there and again I just think he was caught up in the moment. Their defense can do that to you."

Dustin Ware led Georgia with 12 points, followed by Nemanja Djurisic with 10.

Miller tallied 19 points and Kidd-Gilchrist 14 for Kentucky, which killed Georgia on the boards 41-26.

But Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn't necessarily pleased.

"We're just into our own thing right now and you can't be a special team and be that way," Calipari said. "I've had teams that we get to February, the middle of February, and we kick in. You know, this isn't football. You can lose three in a row and still win a national title so the biggest thing is let's step this thing up."

The game started well enough for the Bulldogs, who actually led 14-11 following Drjurisic's second 3-pointer and a lay-up by Robinson with 13:56 on the clock.

But inevitably, the Bulldogs went cold, and following a 10-0 Kentucky run found themselves down by seven before climbing back, this time getting an alley-oop dunk by Donte Williams off a pass by Robinson to close within 23-22.

However, the Wildcats would finish strong, scoring 15 of the half's final 18 points to go into the locker room with their 12-point lead.

Statistically, the first half went about like one would expect.

Kentucky out-shot the Bulldogs 56 percent (14-for-25) to 36.7 percent (11-for-30) and outrebounded Georgia 20-11.

Drjurisic scored all 10 of his points in the first half, but that was matched and surpassed by Kidd-Gilchrist and Miller who scored 10 and 13 points in the opening 20 minutes, respectively.

"Our defense has to become more consistent. Our defense the second half was better than our first. That's something we have to establish. Certainly, rebounding is an issue for our team. We're playing a smaller lineup, we've got everybody ratcheted down one position and that's making our rebounding difficult," Fox said. "The fact that we take care of the basketball and we don't give away possessions there helps alleviate some of the rebounding woes that we have, but we need to become a more consistent defensive team. Obviously, we know we're going to be a work in progress offensively with so many new guys but that will come in time."

Georgia returns to action Feb. 1 at Auburn.