USA Today/Brett Davis

Kentucky Wildcats clutch at line down the stretch, survive Georgia Bulldogs' upset bid

Cats hit 17 consecutive late FTs, hold off UGA 82-77

In a game that featured 13 ties and 15 lead changes, it became increasingly likely that Saturday's Kentucky-Georgia clash would come down to the foul line.

The No. 13 Wildcats made sure that's where the Bulldogs' spirited upset bid would die.

Kentucky made 17 consecutive free throws down the stretch to claim a hard-fought 82-77 win at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens and remain in a tie with Florida atop the SEC standings.

"I loved it. We made free throws. We attacked. We didn't look for easy plays," UK head coach John Calipari said. "... And we were lucky to get out alive."

Freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox struggled for most of the game, but scored 14 of his 16 points in the final 4:36, including all eight of his free-throw attempts. Backcourt mate Malik Monk tallied eight of his 16 points in the final 6:49 to help rescue UK.

The Cats (22-5, 12-2 SEC) also got a huge lift from their bench as Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder each contributed nine points, while Derek Willis added seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds. The three seniors combined to hit nine of their 14 field goal attempts.

Their combined effort helped turn back a brilliant performance by Georgia's J.J. Frazier, who scored a game-high 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field and a 12-of-15 night at the free-throw line. The Bulldogs (15-12, 6-8 SEC) needed the senior guard to step up after their talented big man, Yante Maten, went down with a serious knee injury 93 seconds into the game.

"J.J. was ridiculous and controlled the whole game," Calipari said.

With the game tied at 75 and under 30 seconds remaining, the UK boss made a key defensive call to double-team Frazier, who dished the ball off to the wing. Bam Adebayo blocked a driving Pape Diatta's shot, Fox grabbed the rebound, and the Cats took the lead for good on his two free throws.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Bulldogs, who also took UK to overtime last month in Rupp Arena only to fall 90-81. Mark Fox's club has lost two games in overtime and four others by single digits this season to put its NCAA Tournament hopes in jeopardy.

https://twitter.com/KentuckyMBB/status/833127716719312897

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...   

WHAT WE LIKED:

Free-throw shooting is always a topic that tests nerves around Big Blue Nation, but the Cats displayed some incredible touch in the clutch. The Cats went 23 of 28 on the night and raised their season percentage to .694. It's an improved statistic that is trending in the right direction with March Madness approaching. 

GAME BALL:

De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky -- With seven minutes left in the game, it would have been unthinkable that Fox could earn this designation, but he showed just how dangerous he can be by constantly attacking the basket down the stretch. With UK trailing 71-69 and 2:21 remaining, the Houston native scored 10 consecutive points to deliver the win. Fox also had five rebounds and five assists.

BY THE NUMBERS:

0 - Second-chance points for Georgia, which had only two offensive rebounds.

3 for 15 - Three-point shooting for the Bulldogs.

13-2 - John Calipari's record against Georgia as UK head coach. 

+14 - Derek Willis led the Cats in the plus/minus column.

36 - Points by UGA's Frazier the most by a UK opponent since Texas A&M's Elston Turner scored 40 in a 2013 game.

41-26 - UK rebounding advantage, led by 12 from Derek Willis and 8 from Bam Adebayo.

QUOTABLE:

"Mychal's playing as well as he's ever played in a Kentucky uniform." -- UK head coach John Calipari on senior guard Mulder.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at Missouri. The Tigers (7-19, 2-12 SEC) lost 90-70 today at Tennessee. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. 


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