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Tough second half for Bulldogs

For one of the few times this year, Georgia was able to get off to a fast start in Saturday’s SEC road opener at Kentucky.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it’s a 40-minute game. As a result, the Bulldogs, who only trailed by three at the half, were outscored by 12 in the second, falling to Kentucky at Rupp Arena, 92-77.

“I wouldn’t say it was too much firepower (by Kentucky). There was just a three- or four-minute stretch in the second half where we didn’t do a good job of getting back,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “They went 4 of 4 to start the second half, and that hurt us. The first three or four minutes of the second half are as important as any part of the game. When we look back, there’s always this three- or four-minute stretch that gets us. We’ve got to be able to overcome it.”

Slow starts have been a Bulldog bugaboo.

Saturday, however, Georgia started quickly, actually jumping out to a 12-6 advantage.

The two teams would swap leads five times, with the Bulldogs (5-10, 0-2) holding the upper hand for 8:29 before the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1) took control to start the second half and never looked back.

Kario Oqendo led Georgia with 22 points, followed by Aaron Cook with 17, Noah Baumann with 14 and Braelen Bridges with 10.

“I hope they (his players) weren’t surprised that they were playing well in the first half, I wasn’t,” Crean said. “The bottom line is we fought extremely hard. We played tough and diligent. We just hit a bad stretch and they were able to build a little cushion.

The game was supposed to be reunion with former Bulldog guard Sahvir Wheeler, who transferred to Kentucky after the end of the year.

Crean and Wheeler would share an embrace before the game, but the former Bulldog would never see the court as he sat out due a stiff neck.

He wasn’t missed.

TyTy Washington Jr. picked up the slack for Wheeler, and responded with a school-record 17 assists, breaking a mark held by former Kentucky great John Wall.

The Wildcats gave him plenty of help. Oscar Tshiebwe led scorers with 29 points, followed by Davion Mintz with 19, Washington with 17 and Keion Brooks Jr. with 14.

“I don’t know how they feel, but I believe that’s the best their team has looked,” Crean said. “The ball really moved, and you’ve got to guard all three guys. You’ve got to guard Tshiebwe, you’ve got to guard Mintz, you’ve got to guard Washington, and certainly you’ve got to pay a lot of attention to Kellan Grady. There’s really nobody there you can back off on.”

NOTES: The Bulldogs played their second straight game without Dalen Ridgnal and Cam McDowell. Both have missed the past two games with Covid-related issues.

Kario Oqendo led Georgia with 22 points.
Kario Oqendo led Georgia with 22 points. (UGA Sports Communications)