Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) shoots the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half at Rupp Arena. (USA TODAY Sports: Mark Zerof)
LEXINGTON, Ky. — No. 14 Kentucky overcame slow spells Saturday against Georgia with one of its strongest shooting performances of the season, and the Wildcats easily beat the Bulldogs 79-54 at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats (15-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) shot 49.1 percent from the floor, and they have now shot at least 44 percent in all six games in league play.
Georgia (10-8, 4-2) nearly got run out Rupp Arena in the first half, but the Bulldogs kept it close with a push early in the second. They held Kentucky without a field goal for a 3 1/2-minute stretch, and over that period Georgia pulled to within six points at 37-31.
But Kentucky countered with its mid-range game that had been clicking all game. Shooting guard Aaron Harrison hit a pair of 17-foot jump shots, neither hitting the rim, and small forward James Young added a 15-footer to bring the Wildcats’ lead back up to 13 points.
The Bulldogs set the pace early in the first half, keeping the game slow to their liking. Georgia is near the bottom of the SEC as is in possessions per game, and coach Mark Fox set the tone early by dragging out possessions. Guard Kenny Gaines, the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer at 12 points per game, did not play with a knee injury.
So Fox thought his best bet was to keep the game slow and the score low, and the plan seemed to be working fine when the Bulldogs took an 8-6 lead with 14:04 left in the first half.
Then Kentucky found its rhythm. The Wildcats got in a groove on offense and defense, scoring quick and forcing Georgia into quick decisions on offense, causing bad shots and turnovers.
The Wildcats went on a 21-5 run, starting with 11 straight points from five different players, including a defensive rebound and run-out layup for reserve forward Derek Willis, garnering one of the biggest ovations of the first half from the near-capacity crowd.
By the end of the run, Georgia had shot 1 of 9 and committed five turnovers in an eight-minute span.
Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein finished with eight points, three rebounds, six blocks and six steals in a bounce-back game after one of his most ineffective games of the season Tuesday against Texas A&M, playing only nine minutes and finishing with one point, one rebound and no blocks.
NOTES: The Wildcats are now 57-5 at home in their all-time series against Georgia. … Because the SEC no longer plays in divisions in men’s basketball, the Wildcats will not play a regular-season game against the Bulldogs in Athens for the first time since 1963. … Kentucky F Alex Poythress scored 11 points and has scored in double figures in four of Kentucky’s six SEC games.