Whew, what a game. It was a little closer than Big Blue Nation had hoped, →
Basketball Season Coverage
Start off your Sunday morning with highlights from Kentucky’s tough 82-77 victory over the Bulldogs.
It wasn’t easy, but the Wildcats came home with another SEC win on the road. Georgia fans hoped to see their team finally get that ever-eluding key victory, but Fox’s late game heroics was enough to keep Kentucky on top.
How about Dominique Hawkins with the steal and score?
By Drew Franklin on ©February 18th, 2017 @ 10:45pm
Whew, what a game.
It was a little closer than Big Blue Nation had hoped, but in the end, your University of Kentucky Wildcats escaped Athens with an 82-77 win in a game that saw 13 ties and 15 leads changes.
Like you, I’m a little gassed from yelling at my television, but let’s use what little energy we have left to run through some takeaways from the big SEC road win…
1. The Rule of 71 failed.
Georgia was the first to 71 points after J.J. Frazier made a three-pointer to reach the 71 plateau and put the Bulldogs ahead by two. But the Rule of 71 would not hold true tonight as the Cats still pulled off the win in the end.
Kentucky also won without getting a single point from Isaac Humphries for only the second time this season.
2. J.J. Frazier was unstoppable.
The Kentucky defense couldn’t do anything about J.J. Frazier and it was so frustrating to watch. JUST MAKE SOMEONE ELSE BEAT YOU!!!!
Georgia ran the same offense over and over and over again in the second half — ball screens to get a mismatch — and Frazier scored at will to the tune of a season-high 36 points, one shy of his career best mark.
Frazier was hot, but at some point you have to swarm him and make someone else do some scoring.
3. De’Aaron Fox was Mr. Clutch down the stretch.
Fox’s play was disappointing through the first 25-30 minutes of the game and the he took over in crunch time, scoring 10 points in the final two minutes and hitting six straight free throws in the last 44 seconds to close it out.
Fox said afterward, “I can step up in big moments.”
Yeah, we saw that.
4. Bam Adebayo also made big plays in the end.
Two plays in particular stand out: the block of Pape Diatta’s shot in a tie game with 33 seconds to play and the hustle to secure the long offensive rebound after a Kentucky missed shot with a little over a minute to go, which led to a tie game with the second chance bucket.
Adebayo also hit three clutch free throws and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in 36 hard minutes.
5. You have to feel bad for Mark Fox and his Bulldogs.
Georgia has played two very tight games against Kentucky and had both of them won, plus an overtime loss at Florida, a one-point loss at Texas A&M (because the clock got stuck) and a two-point loss at South Carolina. They could’ve won any and all of those with just a couple different bounces of the ball, but instead they went 0-5 in those tight contests that could’ve really helped the NCAA tournament resume.
Unfortunately Georgia will likely miss out on the tournament now and that has to suck. They played so well in big games, just couldn’t finish.
6. Prayers up for Yante Manten.
Georgia’s star forward went down with a knee injury in the very beginning of the game and didn’t return. Hopefully it doesn’t keep him out too long and on into the summer when he is projected as a second-round pick in the draft.
Also, big pat on the back to Manten’s teammates for playing so well after he went out. You gotta wonder what the score would’ve been had he not suffered the injury.
7. Kentucky’s three seniors had good games.
Big night for the three seniors as they combined for 25 points off the bench and a whole lot more in other aspects of the game, including a CAREER-HIGH 12 REBOUNDS BY WILLIS. Derek did exactly what Kentucky needs from him outside of his shooting contributions and it’s time to consider moving him into the starting lineup.
Then of course Dominique Hawkins continued his streak of solid play by doing all the things Old Reliable gives you each night.
And how about my boy Mychal Mulder? I’ve been saying it all year: he needs more clock. Tonight he had nine points on three treys with two rebounds. Maybe I’m alone here but I wouldn’t mind seeing him take some of Isaiah Briscoe’s minutes when the situation calls for some shooting.
Coach Cal said on the postgame show, “I love what I saw from Dom and Mychal… And Derek did good.”
8. Malik Monk was cold from outside but made some key plays.
It looked to be one of those awful nights for Monk until he came up big late in the game and on the foul line. Monk finished 9-for-11 for the charity stripe with only three made field goals on 11 shots, and it was enough.
He got robbed of a big rebound when Kentucky was called for a cheap blocking out foul, too.
Speaking of bad calls….
9. WHERE WAS THE FOUL HERE!!!!!!!!
Had Kentucky lost that game, we were all taking a KSR field trip to the SEC basketball offices.
10. Moving forward…
It’s simple: learn to guard the high pick-and-roll. If not, that’ll be what kills this team in the end.
But for now let’s celebrate a hard-fought win in a tough environment against a very good team and a very good guard in J.J. Frazier.
Get back to Lexington with that W and put it behind us.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 18th, 2017 @ 9:53pm
John Calipari used his postgame press conference to go on a long rant in support of Georgia head coach Mark Fox for the job he has done with the Bulldogs throughout so many close, heartbreaking games.
The rant then turned to Mark Gottfried, who was fired from NC State earlier this week, as Calipari said, “We’re firing coaches in midseason… Are you shitting me?”
He concluded it with, “FAKE NEWS!!!! I’m just kidding.”
By Drew Franklin on ©February 18th, 2017 @ 9:37pm
De’Aaron Fox and Derek Willis were available to the media after tonight’s win and Kentucky Sports Radio was there with a camera to capture it all.
Have a listen/watch as Fox and Willis explain how their performances contributed to their team’s narrow win.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 18th, 2017 @ 8:37pm
Just like the first time these two teams met, it was a hard-fought, knock down, drag ’em out, that ended with Kentucky leaving victoriously.
Georgia ran J.J. Frazier off ball screen after ball screen to score 36 points, but his adversary had the last laugh. De’Aaron Fox struggled with foul trouble and often failed to finish at the rim, but when Kentucky needed him most, Fox delivered.
Trailing by two with 1:12 remaining, De’Aaron Fox kissed one off the glass to tie the game. Frazier responded, but Fox didn’t back down. Fox was sent to the free throw line. His first shot drew iron three times before rolling through the rim. From there, Fox was good to go. Fox hit six free throws in the final minute and scored eight of the Cats’ last 11 points to ice the game.
Fox and Malik Monk led the Cats in scoring with 16 apiece, Derek Willis tied a career-high with 12 rebounds and Bam Adebayo finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. The full box score:
Kentucky averages 12 turnovers per game this season. In the first half they’ve given Georgia the ball nine times.
One other thing worth mentioning: Georgia’s star power forward, Yante Maten, is doubtful to return after suffering a right knee injury in the first half.
We’re inside the one-hour mark before tip-off, so what better time to get your predictions than now. So take a moment, if you will, to write a little ditty about how you think things will play out and what the final score will be.
Can the D stop Frazier? Will Maten dominate the paint? Which Derek Willis will we get? Maybe Gabriel? Can Bam Adebayo stay out of foul trouble? Is Monk still hot?
Let us know how you feel and then come back in about 45 minutes for the live blog.
Let’s go Cats.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 18th, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Following Tuesday night’s win over Tennessee, Rick Barnes said his team’s plan was to limit production from Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel at the four position. Willis and Gabriel did not perform in Tennessee’s upset of the Cats in Knoxville, so the Vols set out to shut them down once again, rather than focusing on the tall task of stopping Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo.
“We were willing to let the other players pretty much do what they had done. Adebayo, Fox, Monk do what they do. We just didn’t want that fourth guy to really step in there,” Barnes said after that game.
Barnes isn’t the only person who sees the importance of the four for Kentucky; in fact, anyone with eyeballs knows that can be a make or break position.
Calipari said yesterday he will turn to Mychal Mulder in that spot if Willis and Gabriel aren’t giving him anything, but Willis and Gabriel will each get their time because that is how the team is practicing.
“Instead of trying to put a big team out there that we’re not playing with, let Derek and Wenyen get their time at four. If we want to slip them to three at times I will. And I’m also really working on that first unit of guys. I’m really focused on that unit playing well, especially if that unit’s going to play 25 minutes together in a game. I’ve got to spend 75 percent of my time then working on that unit because they’re going to be out there the most.”
Gabriel noted that he is seeing a lot more of Willis in practice, in part because of the recent reboot, and it is helping his defense.
He said, “We’re starting to go against each other more at practice now. We used to not go against each other as much, but now that we’re still working on this reboot now we’ve been starting to play against each other.”
“It’s part of the competitiveness,” Gabriel explained, when asked why he is getting more of Willis. “It brings out more of our competitive spirit. Going against him, we know that we sub in for each other. Kind of earn your playing time during practice.”
“It motivates me, but I love to see my teammate do good. It was his game (against Tennessee), but I still think that’s my position as well. It’ll be great if we both play good the same game.”
Kentucky will win by six points down in Athens today, if you’re to believe Ken Pomeroy. KenPom’s magical machine of statistics projects a 79-73 road win for the Wildcats.
What’s your score prediction?
Me, I like Cats by… oh, let’s say… somewhere in the by 90 range.
De’Aaron Fox missed the first meeting between Kentucky and Georgia in Rupp Arena earlier this season thanks to a small case of the flu that hit him the morning of the game.
Yesterday, Fox was asked what he remembers about that close overtime game, the only one he has missed all season.
“I probably seen like five minutes total of the game, just because I was sleeping so much,” Fox admitted.
“We didn’t talk too much about it,” he added.” But I seen highlights and I seen like — I think it was the game before that so I kept it on that channel — I saw like the opening two minutes, saw like when it was about to be halftime and then I think I saw Malik’s shot at the end, and then I didn’t see a second of overtime.”
“I couldn’t — it was pretty bad.”
Luckily for Kentucky, Fox is back to full health for the rematch today. Let’s hope Round 2 doesn’t need more late heroics from Malik Monk to get a win.
The first times these two teams met this season, the Kentucky Wildcats could not have had a worse start if they tried. Georgia raced out to a 19-5 lead with 12 minutes to go in the first half, before the Cats started to battle back into the game. It took the Cats until less than a minute left in the first half to tie the score at 29 a piece going into the locker room. The second half saw neither team really take over the game, but Malik Monk sure did. He single-handedly kept Kentucky in this game at the offensive end, finishing with 37 points on 7-11 from beyond the arc. He also hit the game-tying shot with about 8 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime period. The Cats came out in overtime and outscored the Bulldogs 14-5, giving UK the 9 point, hard fought victory.
Since that game, Kentucky has gone 3-1, with the only loss coming in the blowout defeat against Florida in Gainesville. On the other hand, Georgia is 2-2 since the Kentucky loss. Tonight’s game in Athens is big for UK down the road for a few reasons. One being the momentum factor. Kentucky has played noticeably better in the past two wins over Alabama and Tennessee. It would be huge to keep the momentum going through the end of the SEC schedule. The second reason being seeding in the NCAA tourney. While this win just shows up as a road victory on the resumé, a loss would pretty much kill any shot at a 2 seed for the Cats.
In the four games since the loss in Rupp Arena, Georgia coach Mark Fox has tinkered with the lineup slightly. He’s kept four starters the same, in Yante Maten, JJ Frazier, Juwan Parker, and Derek Ogbeide. However, the fifth starting spot has gone to four different players in the past five games. My fifth starter prediction from the first match up was Jordan Harris, so I will stick with him for tonight’s game.
#1 Yante Maten, Junior Forward, 6’8″
Yante Maten returns as the best player from last year’s Georgia Bulldog squad to be one of the best players in the SEC this season. He started every game for Mark Fox last season, on his way to earning Second Team All-SEC. In fact, if you include this season, Maten has started 87 of the 88 games he’s played in a Georgia uniform.
The Junior has been a force for the Dawgs this season. He’s leading the team in points and blocks, as well as second in rebounds. His averages are 19.4 points per game, good for third in the SEC, 7.2 rebounds which ranks sixth in the conference, 1.6 blocks, and 1.6 assists. UK’s weak front court couldn’t handle Maten last season, as he averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games.
In the first game this season, Maten was just as advertised. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. This was a game that De’Aaron Fox sat out while he was sick. Kentucky definitely struggled adjusting to their primary ball-handler and primary on-ball defender not playing a second of the game, and it showed. I think Isaiah Briscoe comes out on the bigger Maten to begin the game, if Cal chooses to go away from Wenyen Gabriel guarding Maten.
#30 JJ Frazier, Senior Guard, 5’10”
JJ Frazier was right up there with Yante Maten in the running for best player for Mark Fox last season. He led the team in the scoring, assists, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage a year ago. He, like Maten, was also tabbed Second Team All-SEC by the coaches.
Frazier is putting up solid numbers in his final collegiate season, leading the team in assists, steals, and free-throw percentage. He’s putting up 16.6 points, 4.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2 steals per game, which is the third best in the SEC. While his numbers may look good, they are down in comparison to last season, most notably, his shooting from deep. Last season, Frazier shot 39% from 3-point land, and this year that percentage has dropped to 30.6%. His free throw shooting has remained a constant though, hitting 87.4% on the year.
The senior guard will draw the defensive assignment of De’Aaron Fox tonight. Fox will attempt to keep Frazier from having the night he had in the first meeting between these two teams. Frazier finished with 23 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. If the Cats want to take care of business on the road tonight, they can’t let JJ get hot in front of the home crowd.
#3 Juwan Parker, Junior Guard, 6’4″
Juwan Parker missed all of the 2015-16 season due to off-season surgery to fix an injury to his left Achilles. He actually incurred the injury about halfway through the 2014-15 season, and chose to pursue a medical redshirt the following season. Parker was a part-time starter for Mark Fox at the time of his injury, but he missed about a season and a half of playing time.
This season, it would seem that Parker is feeling 100% and is back to his old playing style. The Junior is averaging 9.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and almost 2 assists. He’s not much of a shooter from downtown, only hitting 8 threes on the season, but he is a solid mid range shooter. His free throw percentage is second on the team at 86.5%.
While Parker’s offensive contributions in the first game in Rupp don’t show much on the stat sheet, his contributions do show in the stat sheet for the defensive side of the floor. Parker had 4 points, an assist, and fouled out while trying to defend Malik Monk. When I said his defensive contributions showed, I was referring to the points column next to Monk’s name. Georgia is going to need a much bigger and more positive contribution if they want a shot at winning tonight’s game.
#34 Derek Ogbeide, Sophomore Forward, 6’8″
Derek Ogbeide was a solid contributor in his freshman campaign for Mark Fox, despite playing less than 20 minutes per game. He finished second on the team in rebounds and blocked shots a season ago. The Atlanta, Georgia native brings some more muscle to the front line for the Bulldogs.
Ogbeide is a consistent player for Mark Fox this year, playing a blue collar role opposite the flashier stats of Yante Maten down low. He’s averaging 7 points, a team-leading 7.3rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per contest. The shots that Ogbeide does take will be high percentage and most likely under the basket. He’s shooting the best percentage from the field on the team at 58.5%.
With Bam Adebayo forced to sit for long stretches with foul trouble, Kentucky interior defense struggled to handle the big fella Ogbeide. A surprise monster contributor, Ogbeide finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks. If Bam has been working on not picking up the silly off the ball fouls, he should be able to win this match up.
#2 Jordan Harris, Freshman Guard, 6’4″
Jordan Harris is the only freshman playing major minutes for the Bulldogs this season. He was ranked as a four-star prospect by most recruiting services coming out of Seminole County High School in Iron City, Georgia. He was also ranked as the third best shooting guard in the state of Georgia for the class of 2016.
Harris picked up the starting role just before SEC play began and has starting 12 of 25 games for the Bulldogs on the season. He’s scoring 5.2 points, dishing out 1.8 assists, and pulling down 1.6 rebounds per game throughout his freshman season. He’s a threat from downtown as well, hitting 47% of his threes on the season.
The freshman actually came off the bench in the last game against the Cats, but he was the fourth biggest contributor to the team in that meeting. Harris finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist. Malik Monk will probably guard Harris or whoever is playing that 5th option on offense slot for Rick Fox.
Another road SEC game for the Kentucky Wildcats, another promo going on to get fans in the building. First 1,000 fans get a fee t-shirt tonight because it is always fun when the Super Bowl comes to town. If this game is anything similar to the sell-out that happened when the 2014-15 Karl Towns-led team played at Georgia, then the Cats have a real tough test in front of them with dealing with the crowd and how the team feeds off the intensity coming from the fans. Containing both Yante Maten and JJ Frazier is the main goal for the defense of John Calipari. The reboot goes again tonight, let’s see how it plays out.
Go Cats. Beat Bulldogs.