Dawgs fall to Cats 68-61

LEXINGTON, KY – Kentucky shook up its lineup and shook off its slump here Wednesday night, but Georgia can't seem to shake its streaky nature.

After throwing a late scare into the Wildcats, the Bulldogs eventually fell 68-61 in front of 22,548 fans in Rupp Arena.

Georgia trailed 57-43 with 3:23 remaining but forced four straight Wildcat turnovers and scored nine points in one minute, 17 seconds to close within five at 57-52 with 2:05 left. Kentucky closed the game out from there by breaking Georgia's press three straight times for easy baskets.

Georgia muddled through scoreless stretches of 4:02 and 5:00 in the second half to go along with an eight minute, 27-second 0-fer in the first half. The Bulldogs stayed close throughout thanks to short scoring bursts of 11 in 1:57, nine in 1:17, nine in 2:08 and eight in 1:43.

The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 16-9 overall and 6-5 in the SEC. The Bulldogs fell to 14-10 and 4-7.

Georgia now must win four of its final five regular season games to reach 18 wins, the plateau that Coach Dennis Felton has designated the team's magic number. Felton thinks the Bulldogs will get an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament with 18 wins, but Georgia let another chance for a win of any real significance slip by against Kentucky.

The Bulldogs were led by Billy Humphrey's 14. Fellow freshman Mike Mercer added 12, but 10 of those came in the first half.

Point guard Sundiata Gaines, who was battling an upset stomach, finished with six points and five turnovers. During one break in the first half, Gaines went to the trash can behind the Bulldogs' bench and appeared to vomit. His night didn't get any better when teammate Dave Bliss inadvertently poked him in the eye while they were fighting for a rebound.

Georgia was outrebounded 46-26 and shot just 35 percent for the game. On the positive side, the Bulldogs tied their season-high with 16 turnovers.

The Wildcats were led by Sheray Thomas' 13 points. Thomas, a junior forward, came into the game averaging 4.3 points.

Kentucky hasn't dominated the Southeastern Conference this season in the way in which they've grown accustomed, and Coach Tubby Smith said Tuesday that he was effectively starting the season over, wiping away everything good and bad his players had done to that point and grading them on their play from now forward.

The tangible result of that was a starting lineup that included guards Patrick Sparks, Brandon Stockton and Ravi Moss, forward Bobby Perry and center Lukasz Obrzut. No player in that group is averaging more than 8.5 points this year, and Stockton, a senior, was making his first career start.

Regular starters, not to mention the Wildcats' three leading scorers, Rajon Rondo, Randolph Morris and Joe Crawford started the game on the bench. Smith stayed with his new lineup for the first five minutes.

When Morris came off the bench with 14:54 left in the first half, Georgia led 10-7. Crawford and Rando entered the game 50 seconds after Morris, and the Wildcats rattled off 15 straight points. The Bulldogs went scoreless for eight minutes and 27 seconds after taking their 10-7 lead.

However, after Kentucky went up 22-10 on a putback by Obrzut with 7:22 left in the half, Georgia scored 15 of the next 18 points and took a 25-24 lead with 1:38 left in the half. The Wildcats led 28-25 at halftime.

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