Top-ranked UK too hot for Georgia
Posted: Friday, March 2, 2012 7:00 pm
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Doron Lamb smiled after the question and shook his head slowly. The sophomore sharpshooter is confident Kentucky is in a class by itself if it can replicate this offensive performance.
“Nah, nobody can beat us when we’re on fire like that,” Lamb said.
Darius Miller hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, and No. 1 Kentucky beat Georgia 79-49 on Thursday night to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 52 games and push its overall run to 21 in a row.
“We all had it going. We all had a lot of fun tonight,” Miller said. “I think that’s how it should be in our last home game.”
Kentucky (29-1, 15-0 Southeastern Conference) made an emphatic statement in its final game at Rupp Arena this season with an offensive flurry that nearly equaled the furious defensive effort the Wildcats have given all season.
Kentucky, the nation’s best defensive team by field goal percentage, made a season-best 15 3-pointers, hitting six in a row at one point in the second half.
“We’ll beat you by a bunch if we shoot it like that,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Donte’ Williams led Georgia (13-16, 4-11) with 17 points. The Bulldogs were 3 of 19 from 3-point range.
Calipari hasn’t lost at Rupp Arena in his three seasons in Lexington, and the Wildcats are poised to make a run at their eighth national title thanks to player of the year contender Anthony Davis and a supporting cast of NBA-worthy talent.
It was the final home appearance for Miller and fellow senior Eloy Vargas, but also could be the last time that Davis, fellow freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague as well as Lamb and sophomore Terrence Jones play at home.
“That’s a scary thought,” freshman Kyle Wiltjer said. “But, we don’t want to look that far ahead. We’ve still got a lot more games to play.”
The Wildcats made sure to make their home finale memorable.
Davis finished with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks to give him an NCAA-best 140 this season. Lamb had 13 points and Kidd-Gilchrist added 12 as the Wildcats went 15-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Kentucky doubled up Georgia 42-21 just over a minute into the second half on Jones’ layup and the 24,382 fans at Rupp Arena were on their feet again after Jones missed a 3 and Davis followed with a slam that made it 48-24.
Kentucky continued its attack from behind the arc with a 20-2 run that featured six 3-pointers, including two by Lamb, two by Wiltjer, one by Teague and one by Miller that made it 67-30 with 10:36 left.
Lamb hit two free throws before Georgia finally scored again on a free throw, but the Bulldogs had little reason to keep battling late and fell behind by as many as 41 in the closing minutes.
“We obviously tried to protect the basket, but they’re a hard team to guard because they can score all over the place,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They were prepared for our zone and then shot the ball on us.”
With their 45th SEC regular-season title wrapped up with a victory Saturday, the Wildcats were playing for NCAA tournament seeding and a chance to finish league play with a perfect record, joining the 1996 and ’03 squads as the only teams in the conference to accomplish the feat since 1956.
“We’ve just got to keep winning games,” Lamb said. “We’ve got four more games left in our conference, if we just win those, we’ll do that.”
Kentucky hasn’t lost since falling by a point against Indiana on Dec. 10 and is on its longest winning streak since that 2003 team won 26 games before losing in the NCAA regional finals to Marquette.
Georgia lost 57-44 to Kentucky in Athens on Jan. 24, but this one got away from the Bulldogs in a hurry.
The Wildcats came out with a flourish with the first seven points, sparked when Davis scored on the opening possession, blocked Gerald Robinson’s shot on the other end and hit his first 3-pointer in his ninth attempt of the season.
Georgia cut it to 11-8 when Dustin Ware threw up a shot off the dribble earlier than Davis anticipated when leaping for the block, but Kentucky opened up its first double-digit lead, 19-9, just past the midway point on Wiltjer’s 3-pointer and a free throw by Jones.
Kidd-Gilchrist hit a 3 and Miller hit two more down the stretch of the first half as Kentucky took a 37-19 lead at the break, and the rout was on.
The fans gave several rowdy ovations for Miller, who grew up in Maysville, Ky. One sign titled “Miller To Do” list had three items on it — Kentucky Mr. Basketball, Kentucky state high school champion and NCAA champion.
Miller has the first two accomplishments and has his best shot at the third this year, a far cry from his tumultuous first season when the Wildcats went to the NIT under Billy Gillispie prompting the coaching change that brought Calipari from Memphis.
“We’re all focused on the same thing,” Miller said. “Win the national championship.”
Published in The Messenger 3.2.12