Dogs reeling after big loss

But while Hayes carried his share of the scoring load, Williams was held to five points — 13 below his average

It was only five weeks ago that Georgia players felt they could not be beaten.

Following a blowout loss at Kentucky, it was clear that confident attitude is ancient history.

An 87-67 loss to No. 3 Kentucky Tuesday night dropped the 20th-ranked Bulldogs to 13-7 overall and 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference.

With three losses in their last four games, the Bulldogs have dropped four games behind first-place Kentucky (19-3, 9-0) in the SEC East, but Georgia coach Jim Harrick is worried about more than just long-lost dreams of a conference championship.

"We've lost our edge,'' Harrick said after his Bulldogs fell behind by 31 points in the second half before Damien Wilkins (21 points) and Jarvis Hayes (17 points, including 13 in the first half) helped make the final score slightly more respectable.

With only seven games left in the regular season, Georgia has little time to regain that edge.

After back-to-back road losses at Tennessee and Kentucky, Georgia plays host to Vanderbilt Saturday at 4 p.m. and plays at Alabama next Tuesday night in another ESPN game.

The Bulldogs then finish with three of their last four regular-season games at home. Georgia is 9-0 at home, including 4-0 in conference games.

Before Tuesday night's loss, played before Dick Vitale and his ESPN television audience at Rupp Arena, Georgia had been competitive in every game. Its first three SEC losses — all on the road — had come  by an average margin of only four points.

As it has done to so many SEC teams, Kentucky exposed Georgia as being an unworthy challenger to its claim as the league's top team. The Wildcats have won 13 straight games, matching the longest winning streak in Coach Tubby Smith's six seasons in Lexington, and they are playing like a leading national championship contender.

When it opened its conference schedule with an impressive 89-63 rout of then-No. 21 Louisiana State in Athens on Jan. 5, Georgia also looked like a team that would be a factor in the NCAA tournament.

In the win over LSU, Ezra Williams scored 25 points and Hayes added 20. After the game, no one blinked when Williams suggested "I don't think anybody in the country matches up with us, in my opinion, when I'm on and Jarvis is on.''

The problem is that the two sharp-shooting wing players rarely have been hot at the same time. When only one of the two is effective from the outside, Georgia's weak spots — defense, rebounding and a lack of inside depth — become difficult barriers to overcome.

Against Kentucky, Hayes made only two shots from the field in the second half but still reached his scoring average. By making six field goals in the first half, Hayes alone had more baskets than Vanderbilt or Alabama managed in the first 20 minutes against Kentucky's tough defense.

But while Hayes carried his share of the scoring load, Williams was held to five points — 13 below his average — on 2-for-9 shooting. Williams made only 3 of 12 shots and was held to nine points in last Saturday's 78-72 loss at Tennessee.

Williams has been held below double figures in back-to-back games for the first time since his 2000-01 sophomore season. Before the Tennessee game, he had scored in double figures in 17 of 18 games this season and he was leading the league with his average of 19.6 points in SEC games.

Against Kentucky, even with Hayes' strong first half and Wilkins' season-high for points, Georgia trailed 42-30 at halftime and then was shut out for the first five minutes of the second half.Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 45-31.

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