The eighth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs succumbed to the top-seed Kentucky Wildcats, 71-60, Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
“It was a hard fought game which is what we anticipated it would be,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “We felt like we made a couple defensive errors in the beginning of the game which put us in the position that we had to play from behind the entire night. It is hard to play uphill in that situation. But then our defense stabilized, we rebounded okay but you have to credit Kentucky’s defense. They have a terrific team and their defense was outstanding on us.”
Leading the Bulldogs (19-14, 9-9 SEC) in offense was senior J.J. Frazier and junior forward Yante Maten with 15 and 12 points, respectively. The double-digit performance was Frazier’s 30th this season while Maten tallied 26 such games. Sophomore forward Derek Ogbeide matched his career-high rebounding mark with 15 boards.
The No. 13-ranked Wildcats (27-5, 16-2 SEC) started the game making three of its first four shots, two of which from long distance, to build an early 10-2 advantage. Kentucky led by as many as 13 points in the first half but Georgia reeled in the deficit on an 8-1 run featuring two jumpers and a highly contested layup by Frazier. Freshman guard Tyree Crump drained a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to bring the game within five points but UK’s Isaiah Briscoe hit a jumper in the closing seconds to send the Wildcats into the half up 32-25.
The Wildcats opened the second half much like they did the first, this time with six scoreless points to extend their lead to 13. Frazier muscled to the line and made two free throws to stop the UK run. Wildcats’ freshman guard De’Aaron Fox followed with a jumper and Maten answered back with a layup. From that point on, Kentucky went on a 10-3 run to gain an 18-point cushion with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
A Mike Edwards made free throw and back-to-back three-pointers by E’Torrion Wilridge and Pape Diatta gave the Bulldogs a jolt of scoring to cut it to 11 points at 50-39. Georgia got as close as 10 points with two minutes remaining but Kentucky continued to match Georgia’s scoring down the stretch to advance to the next round.
The Kentucky guard duo of Briscoe and Fox finished with 20 points apiece, while forward Edrice Adebayo added 13 points.
The rebounding battle between the two teams was even and Kentucky narrowly had the edge in shooting at 38-percent to Georgia’s 33-percent. The difference in the game was 18 Kentucky points off of 13 Georgia turnovers whereas the Bulldogs managed two points on 10 turnovers by the Wildcats.
Georgia now awaits its postseason fate, which will be determined Sunday evening. The NCAA Tournament selection show airs on CBS at 5:30 p.m., while the NIT Selection Special is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.