The ill-fated journey began Saturday with an overtime loss at Mississippi State and continued here Wednesday as Georgia upset No. 8 Kentucky 88-84 at Rupp Arena. It marked the Bulldogs' first win over the Cats in the last 17 attempts, their first win in Lexington since 1985 and only their third ever in 53 trips to the Bluegrass.
But even more notably, the Cats are 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since the 1978-79 season.
Unfamiliar territory, indeed.
"You're 0-2 in the league an you've lost four games, so we're in a tough situation right now," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Right now, obviously, it lets us know that we better wake up and play a lot better defense...
"I'm sure they're nervous and scared. Maybe they'll listen more now."
Kentucky (9-4, 0-2 SEC) had no answer for the Bulldogs' perimeter tandem of Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams, who comibined to shoot 19 of 32 from the field and 10 of 18 from 3-point range. Hayes, a swingman transfer from Western Carolina, tallied a career-high 30 points. He's the third player in the Cats' four losses to establish a new personal high, including Duke's Jason Williams (38) and Mississippi State's Mario Austin (32).
Williams added 20 points for soon-to-be-ranked Georgia (13-2, 2-0 SEC).
"No. I'm not surprised," said Georgia coach Jim Harrick. "This is the way (Hayes and Williams) play in practice all the time."
"This is three games now people have put big numbers on us," said a dejected Smith, whose normally stingy team was blistered for season highs in both field goals (33 of 61, 54 percent) and 3-point goals (10 of 23, 44 percent).
The game was back-and-forth throughout, with Kentucky leading only 53-48 at the half despite shooting 63 percent from the field. Georgia took its first lead of the night (64-63) on a deep 3-pointer by Hayes with 11:56 to play, and neither team trailed by more than four the rest of the way.
Kentucky appeared poised to pull away with 5:29 left as Tayshaun Prince's two free throws made it 79-75, but the Cats managed only two baskets and five points down the stretch.
Georgia closed the game with a 13-5 run --- including six of eight shooting at the foul line --- and held off several challenges by Kentucky. Poor halfcourt execution and decision making doomed the Cats, who saw point guard Cliff Hawkins force two shots in the final 55 seconds and the struggling Keith Bogans miss a wide-open 3-pointer and get an inside shot blocked.
Down three with 16 seconds left, Hawkins drove into a group of Bulldog defenders and forced a short jumper that was rebounded by Georgia's Rashad Wright. He hit one of two free throws to put his team up 86-82.
The Cats got a rebound basket by Hawkins with 4.7 seconds left, but burned nearly 11 seconds getting the points. Tayshaun Prince appeared to have a deflection off a Georgia player on the inbound pass, but the ball was awarded to the Bulldogs. Tony Cole hit two free throws to secure the big win for the visitors.
"I'm not sure what it means," Harrick said. "...But you fight for respect at Georgia, and I thought we could catch them tonight. I don't know if we've got talent the same as Kentucky, but we were awfully good tonight."
"It's a tremendous win (for Georgia)," Smith said. "Coach Harrick has done an outstanding job there. He's recruited some outstanding players, and Georgia's a program that has always had a lot of potential.
"I've said all along that the balance in this league is better than anywhere in the country. It's proven over the course of the season, and it was proven for sure tonight."
Junior center Jules Camara led Kentucky with a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Prince followed with 15, but was held four below his average and got up only 12 shots at the basket.
Freshman guard Rashaad Carruth also had 15 points coming off the bench for the Cats, who were hurt by yet another subpar performance from Keith Bogans. The junior guard was held to six points in 22 minutes of action, the fourth time in six games he failed to reach double figures.
"I have no idea," Smith said when asked what was wrong with his star player. "I hope he gets over it quickly."
Kentucky lost despite shooting 50 percent from the floor, winning the battle of the boards 36-30 and posting 19 assists to 11 turnovers.
"We didn't play that poorly," Smith said. "It's just that (Georgia) played extremely well, and we didn't execute in tough situations... We've got to find a way to win close games. We've lost two overtime games, and now this one. It's not a good sign."