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GREAT SCOTT! CATS WIN IN OT

Date story published: Wednesday, January 27, 1999

ATHENS, Ga. - Scott Padgett's tongue-in-cheek candidacy for a mythical Southeastern Conference's Defensive Player of the Year award took a major hit last night.

But his chances for the league's prestigious Most Valuable Player award got a big boost.

Padgett score 10 points in overtime to lift Kentucky to an exciting 91-83 victory at Georgia.

The Cats won despite a dominant performance by Georgia sophomore Jumaine Jones. Jones, who figures to battle Padgett for the league MVP award, torched Kentucky for a career-high 34 points. That was the most points scored by a UK opponent in at least two seasons.

"I was feeling it coming into the game," Jones said. "I told the guys I'm feeling it. Then I went into the game and showed them."

But Jones, who has scored 56 points in his last two games against UK, missed his most critical shot. His heavily contested, hanging flip shot at the end of regulation rimmed out.

Then led by its three battle-tested seniors, UK controlled overtime.

Padgett, who jokingly nominated himself this week for the nonexistent award as the SEC's top defender, led the Cats with 23. He hit two three-pointers in the extra period. He also made four of four free throws in overtime.

"I feel at the end of games I'm supposed to make those shots," Padgett said. "We've been in those situations over and over again."

Kentucky, which beat Georgia for the 11th straight time, improved to 18-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC.

"It was just a great college basketball game," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "It was a tremendous effort by both teams."

Georgia, which had a 13-game home winning streak snapped, fell to 12-8 overall and 3-5 in the league. It was the Bulldogs' fourth straight loss.

"We gave a great effort," Georgia Coach Ron Jirsa said. "We really gave a great effort."

Like two battle-weary heavyweights, Kentucky and Georgia slogged through the final minutes of regulation.

Kentucky tied it 72-72 with 36.8 seconds left when Wayne Turner made the first of two free throws.

Georgia just missed winning at the end of regulation. After G.G. Smith milked the clock to the final 10 seconds, the Bulldogs got the ball to - who else? - Jones. But with Padgett all over him, Jones' 5-footer bounced along the rim and fell off.

"We ran that play to perfection," Jirsa said. "We wanted him with the last shot. Padgett had four fouls. He can't foul out. I thought that's what we wanted."

Jones made several heavily contested shots during the game. But not that one.

"I felt I got it off pretty well," he said. "That was the shot I wanted. It just rimmed out."

Kentucky weathered the best individual offensive half by an opponent this season in taking a 46-42 halftime lead.

Jones poured in 22 points in the half. Only seven UK opponents had scored that many points in games previously this season.

Jones made seven of 10 shots, including three of five three-pointers, in the half. He scored against UK's man-to-man. He scored against UK's zone.

UK contested many of Jones' shots, but it didn't matter. He hit feathery perimeter shots with a hand in his face. Twice he knifed between two defenders and somehow banked in shots. Once, he seemingly hooked a baseline shot around the backboard and into the basket.

"When I made that shot, I thought, (the basket) must be like an ocean," Jones said.

"I told our team I thought we were facing the best offensive player we'd played all year," Tubby Smith said. "He proved it tonight. Inside. Outside. He doesn't have a weakness. He played with heart and hustle and stamina. Forty-four minutes. Phenomenal."

Thanks to Jones, Georgia shredded Kentucky's proud defense. None of UK's last eight opponents had shot better than 40.5 percent. But the Bulldogs made 51.9 percent of their shots.

Kentucky, which played the final 10:30 of the half without Padgett, led at halftime because the Cats were even more efficient offensively .

UK made a whopping 60 percent of its first-half shots.

In particular , the Cats exploited Georgia's weak inside game. UK's two centers outscored their Georgia counterparts 26-5. No wonder UK did not even attempt a three-pointer until Padgett hit one at the 11:55 mark of the first half.

Kentucky trailed by as much as seven points in the half. The Cats scored the last seven points of the half (four by Mike Bradley) to lead 46-42 at intermission.

The Cats controlled the early minutes of the second half and appeared on the brink of blowing it open. Turner's fast-break layup and three-point play gave UK a 61-50 lead with 14:41 left.

But Georgia, led by Jones (who else?), did not wilt. The Bulldogs stopped the bleeding when Jones fed Michael Chadwick for a layup. After freshman D.A. Layne hit a fast-break layup, Jones dunked a rebound of a missed layup to bring Georgia within 61-56.

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