Kentucky comes into its SEC opener at home Sunday against Georgia following arguably its most impressive performance of the season, a 90-61 rout of in-state rival Louisville on Friday that drew praise from head coach John Calipari. The No. 15 Wildcats looked sluggish in their loss to UCLA last week, but Calipari lauded his team’s effort from start to finish as freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with a career-best 24 points.
“We just played about as well as we can play, and mainly because we finally competed and battled for an entire game,” Calipari told reporters after the game. The Wildcats now begin pursuit of their fourth consecutive regular-season SEC title against a Georgia team that is off to its best start since 2010-11 and owns three victories against 2017 NCAA tournament qualifiers. The Bulldogs have won five of their past six and also played perhaps their best game of the season in their last outing, an 84-66 victory over Temple on Dec. 22. “We’ve learned how to take care of the basketball and play with a little more discipline,” Georgia coach Mark Fox told the media after the win.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT GEORGIA (9-2): Reigning SEC player of the week Yante Maten leads the Bulldogs in scoring (20.2 points, second in the league) and rebounds (9.3, tops in the conference), and the senior center is one of the top players in the SEC. Junior guard William Jackson has solidified the backcourt, scoring 12.1 points per game while reaching double figures nine times after scoring 10 points or more only twice in his first 66 career games. Georgia ranks 45th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (39.7 percent) and averages 40.5 rebounds per contest (28th in the country).
ABOUT KENTUCKY (10-2): Freshman Hamidou Diallo leads five Wildcats in scoring at 15.3 points per game, sparking an offense averaging 81.5 points per contest and shooting 49.4 percent from the field (29th nationally). Gilgeous-Alexander hit 9-of-16 shots from the field against Louisville and is shooting 51.6 percent for the season. Freshman PJ Washington scored 16 points with seven rebounds against the Cardinals and has reached double figures scoring in three of his past four games.
1. After allowing UCLA to hit 12-of-30 3-point attempts, the Wildcats limited Louisville to 3-of-25 shooting from long range.
2. Georgia’s bench has outscored its past two opponents (Georgia Tech and Temple) by a combined 33 points.
3. Kentucky has won nine of its past 10 meetings against Georgia and owns a 60-5 advantage at home.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 74, Georgia 70