SEC Tournament Quarterfinals: No. 8 UK vs. Georgia Game Breakdown


UK-UGA at the SEC Tournament

Anthony Crawford

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Unlike the two team’s previous two meetings in the regular season, this time UK walked away with a comfortable 71-60 over the Georgia Bulldogs. The Cats showed up ready to play in their first postseason game, although it was not the prettiest with defense dominating the competition.

In the first half, UK shook the bad habit of starting slow and falling behind double-digits to start the game. Behind the great play of freshman De’Aaron Fox and senior Derek Willis, the team jumped ahead early which helped overcome foul trouble later in the half. Fox and Malik Monk both sat for extended minutes in the first half, but the Cats defense and the play of Isaiah Briscoe helped UK overcome their absence.

UK’s defense did good throughout the game slowing down J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten of Georgia. Those two gave UK the most trouble in the regular season matchups that went down to the wire, but neither hurt UK much this time around. Maten, playing in his second game back from a knee injury, finished with 12 points while shooting 3-for-11 from the floor. Frazier finished with only 15 points on 4-for-17 shooting after going off for 36 points in UK’s win over the Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia.

MVP: Isaiah Briscoe

Besides for some early threes for UK, the shots weren’t falling for either team throughout the game. That left the game wide-open to be the type of grit-and-grind game that Briscoe shines in, and he did just that.

Briscoe finished the game leading UK in scoring with 20 points, and helped on the boards too with 6 rebounds. Briscoe established his presence in the first half by carrying the scoring load in the first half after Monk and Fox went to the bench with foul trouble. Briscoe finished multiple tough shots inside, including a few and-ones, and even nailed his first triple in over a month with the help of a friendly bounce on the rim.

On defense, Briscoe also set the tone by being a general pest on whatever assignment he drew. A lot of credit can also go to Briscoe for the poor-shooting day Frazier had to suffer through.

Game Defining Moment: 15-4 run for UK to start the game

This run was so big for UK because of what UK didn’t do during it — namely, fall behind double digits to start a game like they’ve been prone to do lately. UK got off to a hot start thanks to some outside shooting from Fox and Willis and the defense from the team overall. Georgia first shot fell two minute into the game but then the Bulldogs went another four minutes before getting a second one to drop.

The better start for UK also helped UK weather Fox and Monk both sitting for extended minutes in the first half, and it likely made watching the game a lot less stressful for the BBN-dominant crowd that showed up for UK’s first game in Nashville.

Trending Up: UK’s starting frontcourt

The starting four spot next to Bam Adebayo has been a coin flip all season between Willis and freshman Wenyen Gabriel, but that seems to be over now with Willis cementing his spot these past couple games.

Against Georgia, Willis and Adebayo meshed perfectly. Adebayo was active on the boards from the start pulling down eight in the first half alone and Willis has suddenly emerged as a shot blocker for UK. He rejected four shots total, but one of them was as emphatic as it gets. Willis also started out hot from three, nailing two of his first three attempts.

Overall, Willis finished with six points and 11 rebounds, and Adebayo with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Those are the type of numbers that UK’s bigs should be putting up if UK hopes to go far in March. 

Trending Down: Malik Monk’s scoring

After scoring in double-digits for every game of the regular season but the closer at Texas A&M, Monk once again failed to reach that bench mark finishing with only two points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field.

Monk’s shot has started to betray him, as he has shot a combined 3-for-13 in UK’s last two games. These games have been good for UK to show they can win in other ways than Monk just going off, but it’ll be asking a lot for UK to keep winning while basically getting nothing from the team’s and the SEC’s leading scorer.