The Georgia Bulldogs were narrowly defeated by the Kentucky Wildcats, 78-69, in a back-and-forth battle during their SEC opener on Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum.
Freshman Anthony Edwards paced the Bulldogs in scoring for the seventh time this season. He accumulated 23 points, surpassing the 20-point mark for the seventh time in his young career. Senior Jordan Harris joined Edwards in double-figures, recording 10 points.
Harris grabbed six boards to tie freshman Toumani Camara for the team high in rebounds. Harris also matched freshman teammate Sahvir Wheeler for the Bulldogs’ leader in assists, as both finished with three apiece.
“At the end of the day, when a shot goes up, you have to hit somebody,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “You have to hit them constantly. That's what [Kentucky] is so good at. We preach two-handed rebounding, and we lose rebounds because we go up with one hand. When we're playing a team that's so fundamentally sound as they are with the boards, that's an issue. The rebounding got us. We couldn't deal with the live ball turnovers, but the rebounding got us in the second half."
Edwards got off to a quick start, scoring Georgia’s first five points. With 18:30 to player, the freshman sensation opened with a jumper which he followed with a contested shot from behind the arc on the ensuing possession to give the Bulldogs the 5-0 lead.
Kentucky took its first lead of the contest (10-5) with 16:12 to play due to the combination of an 10-0 run over 3:13 and a 3:11 Georgia scoring drought.
After the Wildcats committed a flagrant foul, Hammonds drained two shots from the line to get the Bulldogs within one point. Georgia regained the one-point advantage in the following possession thanks to a layup from Harris.
Out of a media timeout, Harris blocked a Kentucky dunk to force a turnover. Crump took advantage on the other end, draining a 3-pointer. These baskets, along with a contested jumper from Hammonds and a free-throw from Wheeler, combined for a 9-0 Georgia run to give the Bulldogs the 16-12 lead with 11:18 to play.
After eight minutes of back-and-forth play, including five ties and five lead changes, Georgia regained a consistent lead with a 3-pointer from Hammonds.
In the closing minutes, the Bulldogs grabbed the largest advantage for either team up to that point of nine, 37-28. Back-to-back baskets from freshman Christian Brown, including a dunk and a fast-break layup, and a dunk from Edwards, extended Georgia’s lead further with 11 seconds left.
A three-point basket from Kentucky at the buzzer sent Georgia into the locker room sporting the 37-31 lead.
The Wildcats got within one of the Bulldogs in the opening two minutes of the second half, but Edwards answered with consecutive three-point baskets to hold off Kentucky and maintain the five-point Georgia advantage, 45-50.
With 11:59 remaining, Kentucky was again able to chip its deficit back down to one (49-48). After trailing for 16 minutes, the Wildcats regained the one-point, 58-57, advantage, off a three-point basket.
An and-one for Kentucky propelled it to a six-point lead — its largest lead of the contest up to that point— with 7:10 remaining in the second half. Georgia answered defensively by forcing a 3:14 Wildcat scoring drought while scoring six points to get within two (63-61).
The Bulldogs were never able to cut their deficit further than two. A basket from the line solidified the 78-69 Kentucky victory.
Up next, Georgia travels to Auburn to take on the No. 5 ranked Auburn Tigers on Saturday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. The matchup will be televised on ESPN. The Bulldogs return to Stegeman Coliseum to host the Tennessee Volunteers Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m.