Cats know these Dogs have bite

February 13, 2004


LEXINGTON - Considering Georgia scored only 39 points at Vanderbilt and went without a field goal over a 14-minute stretch Wednesday, it would seem logical for No. 8 Kentucky to expect a routine win Saturday.

Yet Kentucky (17-3, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) learned earlier this season what can happen by underestimating Georgia. The Bulldogs came into Rupp Arena Jan. 17 and stunned UK 65-57 to end the Wildcats' 19-game SEC regular-season winning streak.

"We let one (win) slip by that we should not have here," Kentucky junior Chuck Hayes said. "Now we have the opportunity to go down there and try to sneak one back out."


Georgia (11-10, 3-7), which is last in the SEC Eastern Division, lost 61-39 at Vanderbilt when it missed 13 straight shots and had just one field goal in an 18-minute stretch.

The Bulldogs, who shot only 39 percent in their win at Rupp Arena, were 13-for-46 from the field at Vanderbilt, a 28.3 percent mark, and had 18 turnovers. Point guard Rashad Wright, who had 20 points and just one turnover at Kentucky, didn't play because of an ankle injury.

First-year Georgia coach Dennis Felton felt his team had stayed competitive until it's collapse at Vanderbilt even though he has just six scholarship players.

"We have maintained a fair level of effort all season, we just have not been as consistent as we need to be," Felton said. "We are excited about the opportunity to play Kentucky again. We have done well in finding a way to compete in every game since our first game against Kentucky prior to our game at Vanderbilt."

Georgia won at Kentucky because of its physical play. The Bulldogs outrebounded UK 36-23 and went to the free throw line 35 times compared to 22 for the Wildcats.

"Georgia knocked us in the jaw and we backed down a little bit," Kentucky assistant coach David Hobbs said. "People saw that and thought that is the way to beat us. We are trying to shore that up the best we can."

"You learn from every game, but you learn more from the losses, and that's what we picked up. We weren't being too enough," said Hayes, who had 13 points and seven rebounds in the loss to Georgia. "Maybe the Georgia game was good for us because it showed us we were not as good as we thought we were."

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith hopes that memory will help his team Saturday.

"The earlier loss against Georgia will definitely be a motivating factor on Saturday, or should be," Smith said. "We did not play very well and Georgia played a very good game. We didn't do a good job of dealing with some things the first time. They played very well and made a lot of clutch shots when they needed to."

Kentucky has won its last two games without leading scorer Gerald Fitch, who has been out with a hand injury. Smith indicated earlier that Fitch probably would not play at Georgia, but Fitch's teammates aren't counting him out.

'He's doing fine, but he wants to get back playing," Hayes said. "He's doing great with everything."

Fitch spent most of Tuesday's win over Alabama sitting near Smith. He was even dressed much like the UK coach.

"He had on the same shirt, same color. We got on him before the game," Hayes said. "I guess that is what happens when you are here four years. You kind of impersonate your coach."

Smith probably hopes Fitch will impersonate himself when he comes back. Fitch was only 20-for-71 from the field and 9-for-38 from 3-point range in six games before he sat out against South Carolina and Alabama.

Two other perimeter players - Kelenna Azubuike and Cliff Hawkins - have also struggled with their shooting recently. Azubuike is 17-for-53 overall and 4-for-18 from 3-point range in his last five games. Hawkins is 12-for-30 overall and 2-for-14 from 3-point range in the last six games.

Those numbers are why Smith indicated Antwain Barbour, who was 10-for-13 against Alabama, may not return to the bench if Fitch returns. Barbour is 20-for-32 from the field in the last five games.

"Playing time is about more than making shots, but it certainly helps your confidence and everything else when you do make shots like Antwain has recently," Smith said.|2/12/04***

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