LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Stating there was plenty of blame to be shared in Saturday's "come-from-ahead" loss at Mississippi State, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith began with himself on Tuesday.
Smith second-guessed his own game management and use of the Wildcats' deep bench in reviewing the shocking 74-69 overtime loss to the Bulldogs, one which saw UK blow a 20-point lead.
"I think there was enough for everybody to take a part of that loss," he said. "We share in every victory, and we also share in every loss, from the coaching staff on down, myself included.
"We've got to be more aggressive, whether that's more aggressive coaching on the sideline or more aggressive (on the floor)."
Smith surmised that he may have played some of his key players too many minutes, leading to fatigue and a lack of intensity as MSU made its comeback in the second half. Four players logged more than 30 minutes, including: Tayshaun Prince (42), Cliff Hawkins (42), Keith Bogans (37) and Gerald Fitch (31).
It marked a career high for Hawkins, the Cats' sophomore point guard who has been limited in the past by asthma. He had nine assists and one turnover in the first half, but only one assist and five turnovers in the second.
"Fatigue was probably what it was," Smith said. "...Cliff, Keith and Tayshuan (played too many minutes). The other guys kept their aggressiveness."
"That was a lot of minutes for me," Hawkins said. "I'm not really used to that, and it probably had a bit to do with me not being able to play defense the way I want to and not being sharp on offense."
"I did get a little tired," Prince admitted. "Maybe the five extra minutes of overtime did it."
Smith hinted that, if he had it to do over, he would probably use reserves Rashaad Carruth, Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes more frequently. They combined for only five points and one rebound in 26 minutes at MSU.
"They're three of the toughest guys on the team and pretty talented," Smith said. "...Now that the younger players have gotten more experience and become more seasoned, it's more or less time for them to step up and time for me to put them in the game when we're not getting it from the veteran players."
One of the vets currently in the spotlight is Keith Bogans, who failed to score in the final 41:36 at MSU. The slumping junior guard has failed to reach double-figure scoring in three of the last five games and is shooting a woeful 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range. On Saturday, he missed an uncontested layup in overtime that would have given the Cats the lead with 27 seconds left.
Asked if Bogans' starting position was in jeopardy, Smith said: "Everybody's starting position is always in jeopardy in this program.
"Keith's been up and down all year. He's pressing. But Rashaad and other players are eager to step in."
Expect to see more bench minutes from No. 8 Kentucky (9-3, 0-1) on Wednesday as the Cats play host to Georgia (12-2, 1-0) at Rupp Arena.
The Bulldogs enter the 7 p.m. (Fox Sports South) matchup coming off an 82-69 home win over Vanderbilt. Sophomore forwards Chris Daniels and Steve Thomas fueled the victory with 21 and 16 points, respectively, to help offset an uncharacteristic performance from leading scorer Ezra Williams (17.4 ppg), who was 3-for-11 from the field and scored only 13 points.
Smith is impressed by Georgia's newfound balance and depth.
"They're balanced, as far as their athleticism is concerned," he said. "They've got good athletes at every position, and then they have backups at every position."
Sophomore forward Jarvis Hayes is having an outstanding season for the Bulldogs, averaging 15.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. They're also getting 8.4 points and 4.4 assists from sophomore point guard Rashad Wright.
Georgia is undersized --- Thomas is the tallest Bulldog at 6-foot-8 --- but has managed to rebound successfully. Jim Harrick's team is sixth in total rebounds (39 rpg) and rebounding margin (+4.1) in the Southeastern Conference.
Kentucky's biggest obstacle in Saturday's game could be overcoming the mindset of having blown its league opener at MSU.
"It's tough," said sophmore guard Gerald Fitch. "But we're trying to turn a negative into a positive. That's the way we're looking at it."
"We're all pretty upset," Bogans said. "The biggest thing we learned is you can't let up, you've got to keep pounding them. We've eased up a couple of times this year, and we see what happens when we do that. We're not going to let it happen again."
"We've just got to keep attacking," Prince said. "We've had this tendency to slow things down and run the clock, and it's not always because coach is saying to do that. I guess I'm going to have to start taking more control and try to get the guys to keep attacking all the time."
Prince leads the Cats into Wednesday's game at 18.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Bogans (13.3 ppg) and reserve center Marquis Estill (10.7 ppg) are also in double figures for UK. Hawkins has become a bigger offensive threat of late, improving his figures to 8.5 points and 4.8 assists per game.
"He's been outstanding," Smith said. "When he's getting spelled properly and getting his wind, he's as good as there is as far as being able to penetrate and break people down and pushing the ball up the court... and defend.
"There's been a couple of chances he's had to make better decisions, but that's going to come with more experience. I've really been pleased with his progress."