Kentucky dumps Georgia in SEC opener
LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second consecutive game, freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came off the bench to score more than 20 points and lead 16th-ranked Kentucky to victory.
On Sunday, he had 21 points to pace a 66-61 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 on Friday during a 90-61 rout of rival Louisville.
“He’s our best player,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “And I said the greatest thing about him; he’s coming off the bench and not saying anything. Don’t worry about his shots or anything, he’s just playing. Smiles the whole game.”
Kentucky (11-2, 1-0 SEC) also got 15 points from freshman guard Quade Green, plus 10 points and nine rebounds from redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo. The Wildcats shot 31.5 percent in the victory, their lowest rate of the season.
“That was as selfish as any of my teams have played in a while in that first half,” Calipari said.
“Every guy was trying to score. You know what a ball stopper is when you’re on offense? It was going to a guy and he held it. Three guys guarding him, I’m shooting it anyway. How about the easy pass up the court to the guy? Nah, I’m going to wait.
“Every guy on the team and no one’s passing because we’re playing this way,” Calipari continues. “So Tuesday we’re going to do 10 passes. You must pass, you cannot dribble. You must get open and pass the ball. They’re going to think it’s boring. But we got to pass to each other, we got to create shots for each other. We’re good enough to do that.”
Georgia (9-3, 0-1) got 17 points from senior forward Yante Maten, 13 from junior forward Derek Ogbeide and 12 from freshman forward Rayshaun Hammonds.
The Bulldogs shot 39.7 percent from the floor but only 2 of 21 from 3-point range. The Wildcats made 5 of 16 3-point attempts.
“We’ve had a lot of good games with Kentucky,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They made the plays that they needed to make to win the game, and we had one little stretch where we didn’t take care of it in the second half and we lost our lead.”
Kentucky trailed 53-49 with 5:18 to play, but a 7-0 run put the Wildcats on top to stay. A 3-pointer by Gilgeous-Alexander topped the run.
The teams slugged it out in the first half, and the Bulldogs went into the locker room with a 27-26 edge.
Green topped Kentucky with 13 first-half points. Gilgeous-Alexander added seven. Kentucky shot just 20.7 percent (6 of 29), including 1 of 8 from 3-point range before the break.
Georgia got eight first-half points from Maten. The Bulldogs shot only 34.3 percent and missed all 11 attempts from 3-point range prior to halftime.
The Bulldogs built a 27-20 lead with only 1:14 left in the halftime, but a technical foul against Fox led to a 6-0 Kentucky run to close the half.
“There were back-to-back plays that I thought were similar and they had different outcomes,” Fox said. “That is what I was disappointed in.”
NOTES: Georgia F Yante Maten entered the game No. 2 in the SEC in scoring at 20.2 points and No. 1 in rebounding at 9.3. Earlier this year, he moved into the top 10 all-time at Georgia in both categories. ... Kentucky starts five freshmen, and the average age of its roster is 19.43 years. ... Georgia senior G Juwan Parker has a master’s degree. ... Georgia has been playing basketball for 112 years, and coach Mark Fox is the first to lead the Bulldogs to three consecutive 20-win seasons.