LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- As he addressed the fans who remained at
Rupp Arena to listen to his postgame radio show, Kentucky coach
Tubby Smith offered an apology for his team's poor play.
Smith no doubt was grateful he wasn't apologizing for a loss by
his fifth-ranked Wildcats, who held off a late run by undermanned
Georgia for a 60-51 victory on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (7-14, 1-10) rallied within 55-50 with 2:04 left
and came up empty on two other chances to further cut into the
Rajon Rondo made a 5-foot jumper and Kelenna Azubuike went
3-of-4 from the free throw line in the final 26 seconds to seal
Kentucky's ninth straight win since a loss to No. 3 Kansas.
Kentucky has won 19 straight SEC games, including last season's
"We just beat Georgia by (nine)," Hayes said, shaking his
head. "We're not as good as we think we are."
Georgia, which started four freshmen and a sophomore and played
without injured leading scorer Levi Stukes, lost its sixth
straight. The Bulldogs outrebounded Kentucky 37-29, but committed
18 turnovers and made only 10 of 22 free throws.
Smith said if Georgia had made more free throws, "we would be
sitting here trying to explain a loss."
The Bulldogs' tenacious defense negatively affected Kentucky,
"Georgia took us out of our game," Sparks said. "They bugged
us physically and we didn't respond."
Georgia jumped to a quick six-point lead, and with the Bulldogs
ahead 9-5, Smith benched all his starters just over 4 minutes into
the game. By the time the last three of them returned to the court
at the 6:13 mark, Kentucky led 21-11.
Kentucky extended its lead to 13 points, but Georgia whittled it
to six before Sparks nailed a 3-pointer in front of Georgia coach
Dennis Felton as time expired in the half, giving the Wildcats a
Felton, who coached Sparks at Western Kentucky before he took
the Georgia job and Sparks transferred to Kentucky, stomped off the
floor in disgust.
An 11-1 run to start the second half pushed Kentucky's lead to
40-21, and the Wildcats led 46-25 with 12 minutes left before
Georgia rallied again.
"The fact that we didn't get on the slippery slope shows we
have matured," Felton said. "We had some success keeping the game
played on our terms."
"We did a better job of not being pushed around," Felton said.
"As a coach, you always hope your teams takes on an identity that
represents you. When I compete, I have a chip on my shoulder."
Gaines, a 6-foot-1 guard, had 13 points and 11 rebounds for
Georgia, but finished 4-of-18 from the field. Bliss added 11 points
for the Bulldogs.
Despite a 6-of-8 shooting effort from Hayes, Kentucky shot 43.8
percent from the field and 59.1 percent from the line, making only
13 of 22 free throws.
Georgia had won at Rupp Arena in two of the previous three
seasons. Felton is 3-3 all-time against the Wildcats -- 2-3 at
Georgia and 1-0 at Western Kentucky.