Kentucky converts 15 threes, overwhelms Georgia on Senior Night

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 1, 2012 


  • Kentucky senior Darius Miller talks about his Senior Night, in which he scored 17 points to help UK to a 79-49 win over Georgia. Video by John Clay

Kentucky turned its Senior Night into a three-for-all Thursday night.

The top-ranked Cats made 15 three-pointers, which equaled the most in a game during John Calipari's three seasons as coach, in burying Georgia 79-49.

Fitting the occasion, senior Darius Miller led the onslaught. He hit a season-best five treys, one shy of a career high.

"We had a lot of fun tonight," Miller said. "I think that's the way it should be."

Miller's 11 shots, one shy of a season high, answered his father's oft-stated wish for more attempts.

"I see no bad shots," his father, Brian Miller, said with a smile at halftime in explaining why he frequently encourages his son to fire away.

As the rout entered its final minutes, the elder Miller provided a fitting punctuation by yelling in jest, "Shoot from halfcourt!"

Miller had plenty of company. Doron Lamb and Kyle Wiltjer each made three three-pointers. For the latter, that equaled a season high.

"We'll beat you by a bunch when we shoot it like that," UK Coach John Calipari said. "We shoot a high percentage of threes (37.6 percent). Probably we should shoot more. I just like layups and dunks better than threes."

Kentucky's other senior, Eloy Vargas, tried mightily to join the party. But he missed five of his six shots, though he did grab five rebounds.

Kentucky improved to 29-1 overall and 15-0 in the Southeastern Conference. The Cats can become only the third team since 1956 to go unbeaten in league play by winning at Florida on Sunday.

Georgia fell to 13-16 overall and 4-11 in the SEC.

"We gave them looks at three, and they took advantage of it," said Georgia Coach Mark Fox, who subscribes to the theory that shooting can be contagious. "Lot of truth to that," he said. "It's momentum. See a few shots go in, and then feel confident."

The 15 three-pointers (in 27 attempts) equaled the Calipari era high set in the 2010 NCAA Tournament against East Tennessee State. UK made 15 of 33 in that game at New Orleans, coincidentally the site of this year's Final Four.

Before the game, Miller and Vargas were treated to UK's annual sentimental send-off to seniors.

Joining Miller at halfcourt were his parents, Nicole and Brian, plus his sisters Taylor and Reagan. Miller's grandmother, Sylvia Peters, turned down a chance to join her family at center court.

"She's not really big into a lot of attention," Miller said.

When a reporter noted that the description fit Miller, he said, "Definitely, definitely. We have similar personalities."

The wives of UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua (Dana Antigua) and Calipari (Ellen) joined Vargas, whose mother couldn't travel from the Dominican Republic because of a visa problem.

Aside from a couple of first-half three-pointers by unlikely shooters, the game held little surprise nor drama.

Kentucky never trailed and extended its lead to 41 points with a memorable blitz early in the second half. The Cats scored on eight straight trips downcourt, and in one stretch four different players contributing to a string of six consecutive three-pointers.

"We're back to where we were a year ago at this time with a totally new team," Calipari said.

Six-for-13 three-point shooting contributed to UK's 37-19 halftime advantage. That marked the Cats' largest halftime lead since a 52-25 cushion against South Carolina on Feb. 4.

Davis joined the three-point party with his first of the season. He had missed eight attempts before connecting with 1:55 into the game.

Later, Kidd-Gilchrist hit a three-pointer to give Kentucky a 27-13 lead. He had missed 13 of his previous shots from beyond the arc against SEC opponents.

A three-pointer by Miller with 1:20 left set the halftime score. It also enabled Kentucky to exceed its game average of 5.6 three-pointers.

By contrast, Georgia missed all 10 of its first-half shots from beyond the arc. The Dawgs came into the game ranked 244th nationally in three-point accuracy (32 percent).

Given Georgia's well-documented shortcomings on the front line, the three-point misfires all but mandated a sizable halftime lead for Kentucky.

The Cats controlled the boards (24-15). Without a low-post threat to consider, UK limited Georgia to 28.6 percent shooting.

Nothing much changed in the second half. UK kept pouring in three-pointers and widening its lead.

Marquis Teague, who had made six of 22 three-point shots in the last 12 games, rattled one in to put the Cats ahead 64-30. He had missed his previous six shots (two from beyond the arc).

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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