Five things to know about Kentucky basketball’s next opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs:
1. At 9-2, Georgia is off to its best start since 2010-11
A loss to San Diego State in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif., and a road loss at UMass off an 11-day break for final exams are the only blemishes on the Bulldogs’ record so far.
Georgia owns wins over three teams that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago -- 83-81 overtime win over Saint Mary’s in the Wooden Legacy consolation game, 73-66 at Marquette and 87-82 over Winthrop.
Last time out, the Bulldogs beat visiting Temple 84-66 last time out behind 30 points and 12 rebounds from senior forward Yante Maten. Georgia shot 52 percent in the first half and committed just nine turnovers for the game.
Before that, the Bulldogs whipped arch-rival Georgia Tech 80-59 in Athens. Mark Fox’s team outscored the Yellow Jackets 44-25 in the second half. It shot 58 percent for the game and made nine of 19 three-point attempts.
Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency numbers rank Georgia No. 64 in overall adjusted efficiency. The Bulldogs rank 89th on offense and 63rd on defense. Kentucky is 16th in overall adjusted efficiency. UK is 25th on offense and 16th on defense.
This is Georgia’s only game with Kentucky this season. Kentucky does not make the trip to Athens this year. Georgia has lost nine straight games to the Cats.
2. Yante Maten is one of the nation’s more underrated players
A three-star prospect out of Bloomington Hills, Mich., the 6-foot-8 forward is making good on his SEC’s pre-season Player of the Year honors, averaging 20.2 points and an SEC-leading 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s third in the league in field goal shooting at 51.8 percent.
Maten declared for last season’s draft put pulled out late to return to Athens for his senior season, which he began with a bang scoring 33 points in an exhibition game against Michigan State. Told by NBA scouts to improve his perimeter shooting, Maten is 11 of 27 from three-point range for 40.7 percent.
“He just keeps getting better every year,” said UK assistant Tony Barbee of Maten, who averaged 17.6 points per game as a junior last season.
“He’s probably the most complete player we’ve ever had here,” said Fox.
His 30/12 effort against Temple was the third time in his career that Maten has scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in a game. That’s only happened six times total in Georgia basketball history.
Before that, Maten scored 24 points in the Dawgs’ 80-59 win over arch-rival Georgia Tech in Athens. Maten was nine-of-13 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds.
He had 14 points in the first half and 20 overall in the loss at UMass, when Georgia shot just 35.5 percent from the floor. Georgia was also outrebounded 39-29 that game.
He did have 25 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Winthrop, the defending Big South Conference champion. Georgia shot 52.8 percent and dominated the boards 40-24, but Fox was not happy, saying, “I told Yante afterward he did not play well.” You know you’re good when you produce 25/11 and your coach says you can do much better.
3. The Bulldogs have two promising freshmen
Fox boasts a pair of building blocks for the future in 6-8 freshman forward Rayshuan Hammonds and 6-11 freshman center Nicolas Claxton.
Rated the No. 56 overall prospect for the Class of 2018 by 247Sports, Hammonds is third on the team in scoring at 7.8 per game. He trails Maten and William “Turtle” Jackson, who is averaging 12.1 points per game.
Hammonds had 11 points and five rebounds in the win over Georgia Tech. He scored a season-high 17 in the opening-game win over Bryant. And he had eight points and eight rebounds in the win at Marquette.
Claxton is the son of former Bulldogs star Charles Claxton, who was a 1993 All-SEC selection and scored 1,274 points in his college career.
Claxton is coming off his best college game when he scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 18 minutes in the win over Temple.
4. Georgia has a pair of impressive road wins
After losing to San Diego State in California, the Bulldogs bounced back to knock off No. 21 Saint Mary’s in overtime. Reserve guard Tyree Crump poured in 17 points to help Georgia pull off the upset. Maten added 16 as Georgia shot 50.8 percent from the floor.
Fox’s club held Marquette to 35.5 percent shooting in the victory at Milwaukee. The hosts were 11-of-33 from three-point range. Turtle Jackson scored 11 points to go with his seven assists. Crump made three three-pointers off the bench as Georgia shot 48 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten Kentucky in Rupp Arena since 2009 -- the loss that was probably the last straw in the Billy Gillispie era -- but Georgia has a couple of nice wins away from Stegeman Coliseum already this season.
Remember, Georgia did push Kentucky to overtime in Rupp Arena last year before losing 90-81.
5. Mark Fox still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win at Georgia
In eight-plus seasons in Athens after arriving from Nevada, Fox is 154-120 at Georgia. His teams have gone 14-17, 21-12, 15-17, 15-17, 20-14, 21-12, 20-14 and 19-15 last season. In the SEC, his teams have gone 5-11, 9-7, 5-11, 9-9, 12-6, 11-7, 10-8 and 9-9.
He is the first Georgia coach in history to win 20-or-more games in three successive seasons (2013-14 through 2015-16) but he has taken the Dawgs to the Big Dance just twice.
As a No. 10 seed in 2011, Georgia lost 68-65 to No. 7 seed Washington in the first round. The victorious Huskies lost to No. 2 seed North Carolina 86-83 in the second round. North Carolina lost to Kentucky in the East Region finals that year.
As a No. 10 seed in 2015, Georgia lost 70-63 to No. 7 seed Michigan State. Michigan State went on to reach the Final Four where it lost to Duke in the national semifinals. Duke defeated Wisconsin for the NCAA title. Wisconsin had beaten a 38-0 Kentucky in the Final Four.
Georgia has been to the NIT three times under Fox, including each of the last two seasons.
Georgia basketball roster
Iron City, GA
Georgia men’s basketball 2017-18
vsSan Diego St
Kentucky-Georgia last 10 meetings
Georgia at Kentucky
When: Sunday, Dec. 31
Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington
TV: ESPN with Kevin Brown and Sean Farnham
Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt