Date story published: Thursday, January 10, 2002
It's official, partner. There's trouble in Basketball City.
Georgia saw to that last night by outplaying Kentucky down the stretch to win 88-84.
Much like the stunning defeat at Mississippi State four days earlier, UK did not get much (or did not wait for opportunities to develop) for All-American candidate Tayshaun Prince down the stretch. He did not take a shot in the final 4:30, a span that saw Georgia rally from a 79-75 deficit.
Transfer Jarvis Hayes, the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year when he played for Western Carolina two years ago, led Georgia with a career-high 30 points. His layup -- a gift courtesy of Keith Bogans' ill-advised save under Georgia's offensive basket -- put the Bulldogs ahead for good 84-82 with 1:05 left.
Kentucky, 9-4 overall, made only one of seven shots in the final two minutes. Prince took none of those shots. The only basket, a Cliff Hawkins putback with 4.8 seconds left (his only basket in a 1-for-9 shooting night) brought the Cats to 86-84.
But junior college transfer Tony Cole, an 85.7 percent free-throw shooter this season, sealed the victory by hitting two foul shots with 1.7 seconds left.
Kentucky fell to 0-2 to start the Southeastern Conference race for the first time since 1978-79. Georgia also snapped the Cats' 22-game home winning streak against SEC teams.
"Concerned," UK Coach Tubby Smith said in describing his players after the game. "Scared. Nervous. 'What do we do, coach?'"
Job One figured to be improving the defense. Georgia shot 54.1 percent. Only Florida's 55 percent accuracy in Gainesville last March had been better by a UK opponent the last two seasons.
"We're really not playing very good defense," said Smith, a coach who puts a premium on just that. "We fought pretty hard. Georgia had too many three-point shooters for us, obviously."
Georgia made 10 of 23 three-point shots. The team's best perimeter shooter by far, Ezra Williams, equalled a career high with six threes en route to 20 points. Hayes, who had made only one of 16 three-point shots in the last four games, made four of eight.
"If you knock down threes consistently, it opens up a lot of your game," Prince said.
UK knew about Hayes, a native of Atlanta. But the Cats did not execute their containment plan, Smith lamented.
"We just didn't do a good job of making him put the ball on the floor," the UK coach said. "That was our goal."
Hayes fulfilled his goal.
"This is why I transferred to Georgia: to play in games like that," he said. "This is exactly the reason I transferred to Georgia: to play teams like Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida."
Kentucky shot a blistering 62.9 percent in the first half. But Georgia, now 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1993-94, hung with the Cats. UK never led by more than eight points in the opening 20 minutes.
"We didn't play that poorly," Smith said. "They just played that well."
Neither team took control in a second half that saw eight ties and nine lead changes.
UK equalled its largest second-half lead on Prince's two free throws with 5:29 left. Those were his only points in the final eight minutes and put the Cats ahead 79-75.
But Williams' final three-pointer and Hayes' pull-up jumper put Georgia ahead 80-79 going into the final four minutes.
Kentucky seemed to take control when Gerald Fitch hit a three-pointer with 2:47 left. It put the Cats ahead 82-80 and sent the crowd of 21,707 into a full-throated roar.
Fitch sensed victory.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Of course. You hit a big shot, the crowd gets into it. That's when we're supposed to pick it up and just bury them. You'd think we'd pick it up and just bury them."
Georgia tied it thanks to a call that the crowd roundly booed. Jules Camara, who had an active 16-point, three-block, two-steal performance, was called for a foul while trying to block Steve Thomas' layup attempt in transition. "I was just trying to get back," Camara said. "I went straight to the rim. I didn't foul him." Thomas' two free throws tied it with 1:47 left.
After Bogans missed a three-point shot, Georgia took the lead on a fluke play. Hayes drove the baseline and passed into a crowd. Bogans ended up with the ball as he leaned out of bounds, and saved the ball before going out. Hayes emerged from the resulting scramble with the ball under the basket. His layup put Georgia ahead 84-82 with 1:05 left.
"That didn't make any sense at all," Smith said of Bogans' save.
"My first instinct was they were going to call me out of bounds," a crestfallen Bogans said. "I thought I saw one of my teammates."
Georgia, which limited UK to 37.8-percent shooting in the second half, protected its lead fiercely. After Cliff Hawkins missed an off-balance 10-foot leaner, the Bulldogs snuffed shots by Bogans and Hawkins in the lane.
From there, Georgia clinched the victory with free throws.