This time, Georgia was unable to keep it close with Kentucky.
The Wildcats played a much different brand of defensive basketball in Friday’s quarterfinals game, which ended in a 71-60 win for Kentucky. The loss concluded Georgia’s stay in the SEC Tournament following a day after its second-round win over Tennessee.
Kentucky (27-5) spurted out to a 10-2 lead to start the game and never let Georgia (19-14) get closer than six points from there. The Wildcats’ defense pressured guard J.J. Frazier and kept him from getting the ball in a good scoring position when he worked on or off the ball.
Frazier finished the game with 15 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field.
Georgia cut Kentucky’s lead to 11 with 7:01 remaining in the game. But Kentucky forward Bam Adebayo put in a hook shot while drawing a foul. He converted the 3-point play with a free throw to put the Wildcats back up 14. Late in the game, Georgia cut Kentucky’s lead to 10 a couple of times, with Kentucky answering the call with either a made bucket or at least one free throw at the line each time.
For the Bulldogs to be competitive a third time against Kentucky, they were going to need some 3-point buckets to fall. Georgia was unable to hit many baskets from long range, converting on only five of its 15 3-point attempts.
Four who mattered
Frazier: While Frazier found trouble all over the floor, he ended the game with a team-high 15 points. But all of his points were hard to come by. Frazier was unable to get much offensive help elsewhere throughout the duration of the game.
Adebayo: Adebayo was a force to deal with on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. He posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox: Fox scored 20 points but was tough for Georgia to deal with defensively. On both ends, Fox turned into a much tougher matchup than the previous time the two teams met.
Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe: Briscoe scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. Not known for his outside shooting, Briscoe even hit a 3-pointer during the beginning of the second half.
From the start, it was a Kentucky onslaught. Georgia did trail Kentucky by only seven points at the half but a quick 6-0 run to start the second half all but ended the Bulldogs’ chances in this game.
Defense, defense: When Kentucky wants to be a great defensive team, it can be. Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk pressured Georgia’s guards to the point of inefficiency. Frazier was unable to find many lanes to drive through and was harassed repeatedly. Outside shots were also hard to come by with Kentucky playing some of its best defense of the entire season. Down low, junior Yante Maten could barely find any open looks either. His first field goal didn’t occur until the second half as he finished with 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Free-throw shooting woes: Georgia has been a sound free-throw shooting team all season long. Against Kentucky, that changed and it hurt the Bulldogs throughout the game. Georgia finished 17-of-26 at the free-throw line and missed some at the line early in the game. In an 11-point loss -- albeit in one that was probably not as close as the final score indicated -- nine points left at the free throw line loomed large afterward. If Georgia is able to perform better at the free-throw line, perhaps it has a much better chance of a comeback with five minutes remaining in the game.
Georgia rebounds better: Oddly enough, Georgia played Kentucky evenly in the two previous meetings while being outrebounded significantly. In this third meeting, the Bulldogs matched Kentucky with 42 rebounds apiece, yet lost by 11.
Bulldogs take Monk away: One of the plans Georgia made for this third game against Kentucky was to take Monk out of the offensive equation. The Bulldogs did a good job of that by holding Monk to two points on 1-of-7 shooting. But while Monk was held in check, Briscoe and Fox took over the scoring load for the Wildcats.
They said it
Georgia head coach Mark Fox on the loss: “I felt like that we made a couple defensive errors in the beginning of the game, which put us in position where we had to play from behind the entire night and it’s just hard to play uphill in this situation. But then our defense stabilized. I thought we rebounded it OK but you have to credit Kentucky’s defense. They got a terrific team and their defense was outstanding on us.”
Maten on feeling down after losing to Kentucky: “I just think I could have played a lot better, not turn the ball over, made some more shots. But I mean, that’s pretty much it.”
Briscoe on slowing down Frazier offensively: “It was more just transition defense. He’s a good player and he likes to score in transition. So what we were trying to do is crowd him where he would distribute the ball up the court. And I think we did a good job at that and just playing collectively on defense as a team.”
Georgia will hold out hope for an NCAA Tournament berth on Selection Sunday. More than likely, the Bulldogs will head to the NIT for a second consecutive year.