Film study pays off for Bulldogs with Rupp win

January 18, 2004|MARTY WARREN

LEXINGTON - Georgia's Damien Wilkins watched film of Kentucky's loss to Louisville in December and near loss to Mississippi State Tuesday night and realized there was a way to beat the Wildcats.

"We felt like if we kept a hand in (Gerald) Fitch's face, was aggressive on defense and rebounded the basketball we would have an excellent chance to win the basketball game," said Wilkins, who had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds Saturday.

"They did a lot of talking earlier in the week about being able to go undefeated in the (Southeastern) Conference for a second straight year, but they overlooked us because we had lost two games by 40-plus points. If other teams watched this game, they may lose more than this game."

The Bulldogs beat third-ranked Georgia Tech 83-80 in double-overtime on January 3, but Wilkins said the win in Rupp Arena was special.


"We had a great win over Georgia Tech, but we had a week to prepare for Kentucky," said Wilkins, who helped limit Fitch to 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting. "We can win a lot of games if we give the type of effort we gave out there today.

"We controlled the tempo and kept Kentucky from getting the early lead on us like they have done to teams all year. I think our aggressiveness shocked them and they backed off. They took us lightly and we had them on their heels the whole game."

Georgia coach Dennis Felton agreed. He contemplated whether to give his team some time off prior to their game at Kentucky. In the long run, he was glad he did.

"The rest was important because we were able to get refreshed," said Felton, who coached at Western Kentucky two years ago when the Hilltoppers defeated Kentucky 64-52 and is now 2-0 against Tubby Smith. "That was a tough decision because we need so much work. We spent very little time preparing for (Kentucky). We spent time working on things we need to be good at."

Which evidently is trying to prevent teams from scoring against them. Among the 15 players listed on their roster, six are walk-ons. The Bulldogs gave up 89 points to Tennessee, the Wildcats next opponent, and 84 points to South Carolina. All they did Saturday was limit Kentucky to 37 percent shooting, and they outrebounded UK 36-23.

"We wanted to stop the bleeding," Wilkins said. "We have been in this position before. The test is how we handle it from here."

Wilkins nearly left last after last season when Georgia coach Jim Harrick resigned after his son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., was fired after supposedly altering grades in some of his classes. However, he is glad he stayed around for his senior season.

"I thought about leaving, but I'm glad I stayed around," Wilkins said. "I enjoy challenges, and I feel like we have four guys that can lead us in the right direction. There is no substitute for hard work, and I think we showed that today.

"We just haven't been inconsistent this year with our play. Nobody has questioned our effort, because I think we have given everything we have every night."

Felton didn't question their effort or their heart Saturday.

"They played hard and with conviction and determination," the Georgia coach said. "They defended the ball well and rebounded the ball aggressively. We were persistent about running our offense and were able to keep control of the game."

Kentucky had only one lead the entire game (34-33) but Wilkins said there was one thing this team wasn't going to do again.

"We didn't panic, which we did a couple of times earlier in the season," he added. "We didn't do anything special. We just kept taking it at them."

Which may be something every SEC team may do after watching Georgia dismantle Kentucky on Saturday.

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