Dawgs thumb nose at Kramer, beat Cats

"The Lord works in mysterious ways,'' Harrick said. "We've had some adversity for about a month now. Hopefully, it's all behind us now and we can concentrate on winning.''

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia held a family reunion in the second half of Saturday's game against Kentucky.

For Ezra Williams, that was especially meaningful. Uplifted by the embrace of teammates he says are his second family, Williams scored a game-high 20 points - including 14 in the second half. In the process, Williams lifted No. 21 Georgia to a crucial 78-69 win over 10th-ranked Kentucky.

On Thursday, Williams attended the funeral of his older brother, Antwonne R. Williams, 24, who was shot and killed last weekend. Georgia coach Jim Harrick, who attended the funeral in Marietta, saw Williams overcome with grief.

"He broke down,'' Harrick said.

Hours later, Williams was back with his Georgia family, who awaited his return to Athens with a special night practice.

"We didn't practice until 8,'' Harrick said. "We were here at 6:30, but we waited on him. I thought it was important.''

For Williams, the practice Thursday night was an escape, just as was Saturday's game.

"I'd do anything to get my mind away from that,'' Williams said. "I had to come back down and focus on basketball because that's what my brother would have wanted me to do. ... It has been real emotional.''

Georgia had to cope with other issues this week:

Steve Thomas, the team's tallest player, was suspended for one game, a loss to Florida Tuesday night.

Chris Daniels was suspended for the first half Saturday, and that ruling did not come down until Friday.

There were accusations that Kentucky supplied the video clip to the Southeastern Conference of a wild elbow thrown by Daniels in last Saturday's loss at Auburn.

And, almost overwhelmed by the other issues, second place in the Eastern Division was on the line.

When Georgia fought to a 32-32 halftime tie without Daniels, the war was all but won. A three-point play by Williams helped trigger an 8-0 run by Georgia early in the second half that put the visitors behind for good - and put the 21st-ranked Bulldogs back in second place.

"This is huge to get us back to feeling like we did early (in the season),'' Harrick said.

Georgia (19-7 overall, 8-5 in the SEC) completed its first regular-season sweep of Kentucky (17-7, 7-5) since the 1986-87 season. The Bulldogs had lost 16 straight games in the series before winning at Rupp Arena, 88-84, on Jan. 9.

The early wins at Kentucky and Florida lifted Georgia to first place in the East, but a recent skid - four losses in six games - had the Bulldogs in third place before Saturday's big win.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith once was the local favorite when he coached Georgia to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 1996 and 1997. With the allegations that he sent the Daniels tape to the SEC in an attempt to gain an advantage in Saturday's game, Smith was the target of taunts from the fans in Saturday's Stegeman Coliseum sellout crowd of 10,523.

Students chanted "Tattle-tale'' while holding up video tapes and late in the game rubbed in the win with simple chants of "Tubby! Tubby!''

Harrick said he spoke with Smith Saturday about the Daniels incident, but Harrick wouldn't reveal details of the conversations. Said Smith in again denying the charges: "No, (the SEC) already had the tape. Why would we send the tape?''

Said Harrick: "It's over.''

With its team intact for the second half, Georgia won with balance. Following Williams was Jarvis Hayes with 19 points. Thomas celebrated his return from his one-game suspension with 16 points and 12 rebounds - his third double-double of the season. Rashad Wright added 10 points with nine assists and only two turnovers.

Daniels provided a strong boost with eight points, seven rebounds and two steals while playing the full second half.

Gerald Fitch and Tayshaun Prince each scored 17 points for Kentucky. Marquis Estill added 14. A key was Georgia's superior outside shooting. Led by Williams and Hayes, Georgia was 6 for 13 on 3-point attempts, compared to Kentucky's 6-for-28 shooting.

The back-breaker may have been Hayes' final 3-pointer with 3:02 left to play, a shot from the wing that gave Georgia a 68-60 lead. Kentucky would come no closer than eight the rest of the game, which ended with Georgia students rushing to the center of the court to celebrate with the players.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways,'' Harrick said. "We've had some adversity for about a month now. Hopefully, it's all behind us now and we can concentrate on winning.''

That may be more difficult for Williams, who Saturday had his relatives - including his mother, sister, five uncles and six cousins - in the stands and more support from his team.

"What he was able to do today was simply amazing,'' Harrick said.


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