It was a classic Georgia-Kentucky basketball game in every way…
Right up until the Dawgs won.
With 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock, Georgia was down 62-61 with a chance to inbound the ball under the Kentucky basket. The Bulldogs attempted a set play that failed to get anyone open, but Sahvir Wheeler smartly called timeout instead of forcing one into traffic.
Tom Crean drew up another play, and this time P.J. Horne squeezed through a couple Wildcat defenders on a cut to the basket. Wheeler hit Horne with a low bounce pass, but he bobbled the catch. If the Dawgs had less time the game would have ended right there.
Fortunately, Horne cooly gathered his dribble and continued forward past the face of the basket and put up a nifty little reverse scoop of a layup for the win.
The Georgia Bulldogs beat the Wildcats of Kentucky in a basketball game on Wednesday night. Forgive me for being redundant, but this is the first time anyone has been able to type that in nearly eight years.
Georgia lead at the half, and controlled the game for most of the second period. However the wheels looked to be coming off at one point. With around eight minutes to go the Dawgs went from up five to down seven as Kentucky put together a 14-2 run that was aided by a questionable technical foul and an even more questionable flagrant foul.
As someone who has consumed way more Georgia Basketball than doctors recommend the last few years, it felt all too familiar. (The reverse jinx never fails folks)
Georgia has lead all night and then a series of mental mistakes and bad shots leads to a 14-2 run for UK that will almost certainly cost UGA the game. The Tom Crean Era in a nutshell
— Graham Coffey (@DawgOutWest) January 21, 2021
This time the Dawgs kept their composure.
Shots weren’t falling easily, but Georgia played solid defense time and time again. With two minutes remaining Georgia still trailed by six. KD Johnson hit a three from NBA range, and neither team scored again until Sahvir Wheeler hit Andrew Garcia in transition for a wide open layup with 28 seconds left.
Instead of playing out the possession and hoping for a miss and the ball back with a few seconds left, Tom Crean elected to foul the Wildcats. Kentucky missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Sahvir Wheeler milked the clock before his layup attempt was blocked out of bounds with 3.8 seconds left, setting up the game winner.
This is a young Georgia team that has played excellent basketball for 35 minutes plenty of times since the start of last year. Unfortunately, they have looked lost down the stretch on many occasions over that period of time.
This time, it was the Bulldogs who closed the game on a 7-0 run.
What does this mean in the big picture? That’s hard to say. Georgia under Tom Crean has been a team with good young talent that doesn’t quite know how to win. Last Saturday’s win on the road at Ole Miss broke a four game skid in conference after the Dawgs started the year undefeated.
This Kentucky is not the usual Kentucky. The players were as heralded coming out of high-school as those of the past, but the loss dropped the Cats to 4-9. That being said, this win could do wonders for Georgia psychologically.
When the Dawgs took the floor tonight they were likely aware that the guys across from them were recruited by Kentucky and they weren’t. Georgia has a lot of good pieces, and the teams biggest asset might be that it doesn’t have a star. When one guy is having an off night, others tend to step up.
Tom Crean has yet to fully earn the 3.4 million dollars a year that UGA is paying him to turn this program around, but one thing that can be said for his teams so far is that they always seem to improve as the year goes on. Last season the Dawgs didn’t get many wins to show for that improvement in conference, but perhaps this game will give them some momentum to carry into the heart of their league schedule.
At 9-4 the Dawgs are a long shot to get into bubble contention for the NCAA Tournament, but the SEC is a league filled with a lot of very good teams. With 12 conference games remaining, Georgia has enough strong teams on their schedule to turn some heads. If they could get anywhere close to .500 in league play, say 8-10, it should be seen as a massive achievement by Crean and his players.
If there is an NIT this year, Georgia fans should be thrilled to see this team sniff it. The exciting thing is that Georgia will have the core of this team on campus for another couple of years. Could this group be the bridge that takes Georgia to the status of contender?
Time will tell. For now, the Dawgs have to earn respect one game at a time. The hated Gators of Florida will slither into Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday for a 2:00 tip-off. Florida is coming off a blowout win over 6th ranked Tennessee, but they also lost to this same Kentucky team by nearly 20. With a third straight conference win on the line you can expect the Dawgs to play hard in front of their home crowd.
A victory would be another step towards becoming a program that Georgia fans can’t ignore.