Cats realize they were outplayed

January 19, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - With Georgia clinging to a 61-54 lead and only 20 seconds to play, Chris Daniels easily went above Kentucky's Erik Daniels to rebound a missed Georgia free throw.

It was that kind of game for the Wildcats. Georgia's dominant rebounding and aggressive defense enabled the Bulldogs to stun No. 5 Kentucky 65-57 Saturday and end the Cats' 21-game Southeastern Conference winning streak.

"They came in here not intimidated and not afraid," Kentucky forward Chuck Hayes said. "They didn't care about the name on our chest or anything."

Kentucky was able to win several close games during its streak, including a one-point decision at Mississippi State earlier last week. However, point guard Cliff Hawkins said the Cats had to realize the past meant nothing to SEC opponents.


"We were able to win 26 straight games at one time last year, but that was last year," Hawkins said. "We've got to go out and win this year. Nobody is going to bow down and lose just because we had won so many straight SEC games. They just played harder than we did and did what it took to win."

Mainly Georgia just knocked the Wildcats out of sync. Both teams were called for 25 fouls, but Georgia clearly had more success disrupting UK's offense than the Cats did stopping Georgia.

"They played aggressively and physically and we did not really respond. You could tell that my the way they beat us on the boards," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said.

Georgia, which has just seven scholarship players, outrebounded UK 36-23. That continues a disturbing trend that saw the Wildcats get outrebounded 26-10 in the second half at Mississippi State.

"We obviously need a better team effort in rebounding," Smith said.

"We can point the finger at ourselves for this game," Hayes said. "We let this one slip away because we didn't play hard enough. Even if our shots are not falling, we can't stop playing. We've got to play smarter and harder. There's no excuse to get beat on the boards like that.

"We've played physical teams before and done well, but today we just were not mentally in the game. We never got in a flow. The tempo was never what we wanted. We were never tough enough."

Georgia saw to that from the start. The Bulldogs jumped in front and Kentucky, which had made a habit of building early leads before letting opponents back in games, didn't take the lead until a free throw by Erik Daniels gave it a 34-33 advantage with 12 minutes, 43 seconds to play. However, that was UK's only lead as Georgia maintained its poise and ability to make free throws.

The Bulldogs were 27-for-35 at the foul line to offset their 39 percent shooting from the field. Kentucky shot just 36.5 percent overall, including 4-for-19 from 3-point range.

Guards Cliff Hawkins (0-for-5) and Gerald Fitch (2-for-9) struggled to score and Kelenna Azubuike was just 4-for-10 overall and 1-for-4 from 3-point range. Both Fitch and Azubuike were unavailable for comment after the game.

"We just did not get real good play on the perimeter," Smith said. "They did a good job on Gerald and Cliff, and we did not make them pay for their aggressive defense. Gerald has got to learn to move better without the ball. If you try to dribble to create your shot, the defense can focus and know where you are."

Georgia had lost 89-65 to Tennessee and 84-63 to South Carolina in its two previous conference outings.

"Maybe we took them lightly, but we shouldn't have," said Daniels, who had just one rebound in almost 35 minutes of play.

Now Smith said his team has no time to feel sorry for itself before its next game Tuesday at Tennessee.

"You can't just shrug off the loss, but you can't dwell on it, either," Smith said. "Physically, we were worn down. Mentally, we've got to get rejuvenated.

"But if we don't improve our intensity and toughness, we are going to have a tough time in a lot of games."

Numbers: Antwain Barbour was 6-for-8 at the foul line, both career-high totals. He had shot just eight free throws all season coming into the game. ... Josh Carrier played a season-high 14 minutes and had three points, two rebounds and one steal. .. Kelenna Azubuike had a career-high three assists. .. Kentucky lost for the first time when holding an opponent under 40 percent shooting. Georgia shot just 39 percent. No UK opponent has shot over 50 percent this season. ... UK outscored Georgia 28-18 in the paint despite being outrebounded 36-23.

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