LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Losing at home against Kansas? Happens to the best.
Stumbling against UCLA, Gonzaga or Alabama? Ditto.
Even a homecourt loss against Arkansas is not an outrageous smudge against a team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
But losing to Georgia (even on the road) during a season when you have already suffered a home loss to lowly South Carolina?
That’s a problem.
And 29 days from Selection Sunday for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, Kentucky’s resume took a major hit with a 75-68 loss in Athens on Saturday afternoon.
With Georgia sitting at No. 129 in the NCAA Net computer formula, this adds a Quad 2 loss to the Quad 4 loss the Wildcats suffered against South Carolina. Coach John Calipari's team slipped to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in the Southeastern Conference.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said before the game that if the Wildcats lost this game that he would bump them out of the 68-team NCAA field.
"We've got our chance to do what we need to do," Calipari said on his post-game radio show.
Well, the Wildcats lost, giving back a four-point lead while being outscored 27-16 in the final 10 minutes.
"We don't have those kinds of guys to throw in the towel," said UK forward Chris Livingston on the Kentucky Radio Network after the loss.
"Obviously it does look tough and look bad right now."
For all the howling about Oscar Tshiebwe’s decreased production and the absence of the injured Sahvir Wheeler (ankle) and C. J. Fredrick (rib) Saturday, defense defined the primary issue for the Wildcats.
Kentucky had to rally in the second half to beat Georgia in a 14-point win last month. In that game the Bulldogs rolled to 42 points in the first half.
In their next six games Georgia failed to score more than 36 in the first half. Three times the Bulldogs scored 24 or less. They averaged 29.
Guess how many points Georgia scored in the first half Saturday in Stegeman Coliseum?
Make that another 42, forcing Kentucky to climb out of a 10-point deficit.
They did that in the second half — in part by playing better defense. Georgia missed 8 of its first 10 shots. The Wildcats showed balance on offense, getting solid production from Tshiebwe, Antonio Reeves and Jacob Toppin.
Reeves made a three-pointer, his fourth, to tie the game at 47. Then Toppin scored Kentucky’s next five points as the Wildcats surged to a 52-48 edge.
But Georgia scored the game’s next seven points, taking a lead they would not surrender.
Tshiebwe and Reeves each had 20 for Kentucky. But Kentucky got only two points from its short bench and Cason Wallace finished with five. Kario Oquendo led the Bulldogs with 21.
Kentucky made only 38% of its field goal attempts, and the Wildcats were outscored in the pain, 32-26.
The Wildcats remain on the road, visiting Mississippi State in Starkville Wednesday night at 8:30 before returning to Rupp Arena to play Tennessee next Saturday at 1 p.m. Calipari said that he had "no idea," if Wheeler or Fredrick would be available Wednesday.
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