Welcome back, Wildcats! UK wins 69-55

"It's time for us to improve as a basketball team," Ramel Bradley said. "Come in and get wins and get something to build on."  Kentucky may have gotten that something to build on ending their three game losing streak in Athens on Tuesday night with a win over the youthful Georgia Bulldogs 69-55.  


The Kentucky Wildcats have been feeling the pressure. 

“We definitely have to make our move tomorrow and get on a roll,” Randolph Morris stated on Monday.  “It’s now or never.  The clock is running out.” 

The team watched as they fell out of the top 25 rankings and dropped off of the basketball expert’s radars over the past few weeks.  They knew that the upcoming game against Georgia was going to be big; one that could either resurrect their season or doom it.  They felt the same sense of urgency that the fans have been feeling since the embarrassment suffered in Kansas. 

“It’s time for us to improve as a basketball team,” Ramel Bradley said.  “Come in and get wins and get something to build on.” 

Kentucky may have gotten that something to build on ending their three game losing streak in Athens on Tuesday night with a win over the youthful Georgia Bulldogs 69-55.   

The Wildcats and Bulldogs were deadlocked in the first half.  Once again, Kentucky stumbled out of the gates, falling behind 18-8 early in the first half.   Ramel Bradley provided a spark off of the bench, torching Georgia with a quick 9 points and leading the Wildcats back to an 18-18 tie. 

When Georgia’s leading scorer Levi Stukes picked up his 3rd foul of the game with 9:46 to play in the first half, Bobby Perry took advantage by sinking a pair of free throws to give Kentucky their first lead of the game at 20-19.  Georgia answered with a Sundiata Gaines jump shot on the next trip down the floor.   Kentucky would retake the lead at the 2:00 mark when Ramel Bradley stole the ball and was intentionally fouled, sinking both free throws.   From that point on the Cats would never trail. 

Kentucky was led by Randolph Morris who posted his way to 14 points on 7-10 shooting.  Ramel Bradley came off the bench to lead Kentucky’s backcourt, scoring 13 points and providing the energy that lifted the Wildcat’s offense when it was struggling in the first half.   

The Wildcats, whose offense had been stagnant during their three game skid, combined to shoot 56% for the game on 28-50 shooting.  They continued to struggle from the three-point line, shooting only 29%, but crashed the boards effectively and got 18 second chance points to help lift them to victory. 

Georgia lived by the three-point line, sinking six from behind the arc in the first half, but Kentucky was able to stifle the Bulldog’s outside game, limiting them to only one three-point basket in the second half.  Mike Mercer led the way for Georgia, scoring 15 points by converting on 6-12 from the floor.  Kentucky was able to hold leading scorer Levi Stukes to only 7 points. 

Tubby Smith noted that his team was beginning to lose confidence before Tuesday’s contest.  “I’m more concerned with where we are on our psychological approach and preparation for this game.”  It has even gotten to the point where Coach Smith brought in a sports psychiatrist to talk to his players. 

With their 14 point victory over Georgia, the Wildcats looked like they were beginning to get their swagger back.  Patrick Sparks put an exclamation point on the game with a between the legs pass to Ramel Bradley in transition, who tossed it back to Sparks for a baseline jumper. 

Kentucky hopes to build on their first conference win.   

“I think this was a stepping stone for us,” Bradley said after the game.  “If we continue to play the way we did tonight, I think we will be fine.” 

Kentucky’s favorable schedule for the next few games will provide the Wildcats with the opportunity to get things going again.  Kentucky, now 11-7 (1-2), will take on South Carolina on January 21, followed by games against Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi State, who have a combined 2-10 conference record. 

Georgia falls to 11-6 (1-3) on the season, and will play Mississippi State on January 21. 

Rekalin Sims did not see action due to a back injury.

* Kentucky moves to 11-6 overall, 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia falls to 11-6, 1-3 in the SEC.
* Kentucky leads the series 105-21 and has won four in a row. Overall, UK owns a 35-14 advantage in Athens.
* The Wildcats return to action against South Carolina in Rupp Arena Saturday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. The game will be televised by JP Sports.

Team game notes

* The Wildcats shot 56.0% for the game, its highest shooting percentage of the year. UK was 28-for-50 from the floor.
* Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 41-23. The Wildcats are 9-3 when outrebounding their opponent this year. UK's +18 boards were its second highest margin all season.
* The Wildcats used their seventh starting lineup of the season, with Rajon Rondo, Patrick Sparks, Joe Crawford, Sheray Thomas and Randolph Morris earning the nod. It was Crawford's 10th start of the year and his seventh in the last eight games.
* Kentucky led 35-32 at halftime. The Wildcats are 9-1 this season when leading at the half. Guard Ramel Bradley had 11 first-half points to lead UK.

Individual game notes

* Randolph Morris led four Kentucky players in double figures with 14 points. It was the first time four Wildcats scored in double figures for the first time since Georgia State on Dec. 6 in Atlanta.
* Morris has scored double-figure points in each of his three games since returning to the team a week ago.
* Patrick Sparks finished with 12 points, his most since a 13-point effort against High Point on Nov. 29. Sparks added six assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
* Ramel Bradley recorded 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench.
* Sheray Thomas led the Wildcats' rebounding effort with seven rebounds, tying his career best.

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