Analysis of UK’s defensive performance against Georgia


Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander celebrates after making a basket during the game against Georgia in the SEC tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 9, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Kentucky won 62-49. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Kentucky might’ve kicked off their SEC Tournament run on Friday, but UK’s quarterfinal opponent had been playing since Wednesday, and the Cats knew that.

As a result, UK’s game plan was to pressure Georgia defensively, and the plan worked as the Cats defeated Georgia 62-49 behind a great defensive performance.

“It was their third game in three days, our whole thing was let’s get into their legs, let’s pressure them,” John Calipari said after the game.

Recap: UK beats Georgia to advance in SEC Tournament

Georgia scored a season-low 49 points, which was also the lowest point total Kentucky has given up all season. The Cats also held Georgia to 28 percent shooting on the floor, 15 made baskets and five assists, all season-lows for UK opponents.

Most of the game plan evolved around the AP SEC Player of the Year, Yante Maten. In Georgia’s two SEC Tournament games before Friday, Maten averaged 23 points on 56 percent shooting.

Against Kentucky, Maten scored a season-low nine points on 20 percent shooting.

“I was just trying to play through a physical defense like I do every night. I missed a couple of my shots and couldn’t find my rhythm,” Maten said. 

Containing Maten was mostly tasked to P.J. Washington, but the Cats also got a big boost from Sacha Killeya-Jones. Killeya-Jones didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he made many great defensive plays that played a role in slowing down Maten.

“I know defensively is something I can really do and no matter what, I can always bring that energy and bring that effort on defense,” Killeya-Jones said.

Read: Killeya-Jones steps in to fill Vanderbilt’s role

Energy is what the defense feeds off of, and when the Cats are playing with energy, it’s hard to score a basket against them. Georgia had six separate stretches where they missed at least three shots in-a-row, including three instances where Georgia missed five consecutive shots.

That’s when UK was able to open up the big lead against Georgia, as Kentucky led by double-digits for 16:58 of the second half. Georgia was able to trim Kentucky’s lead to nine with 1:31 to go, but that was the only basket Georgia scored in the final 6:59.

“We’re long, athletic and we bring energy,” Hamidou Diallo said. “When we bring that energy to a game, I feel like we are the best defensive team on the floor at all times.” 

UK is 11-4 this season when holding opponents to under 70 points, and they will likely need another big defensive performance tomorrow when they face Alabama in the semifinals.

Scouting report: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama isn’t known for their scorching offense, but their star player Collin Sexton has been scorching opponents during Alabama’s two-game win streak at the SEC Tournament. Sexton has averaged 29 points in Alabama’s two games so far, and Kentucky plans to start watching film of him tonight before Friday’s semifinal matchup.

“We’re going to have to try to slow him down, the way he’s been playing he’s been really explosive,” Wenyen Gabriel said. “You still got guys like John Petty that can get really hot from the perimeter so we got to be all around point defensively.”