UK’s first half key in 66-60 win over Georgia

Impressive. Then complacent.

That’s the transition UK (16-4, 4-2 SEC) made during the course of its 66-60 win over Georgia (14-6, 3-4) that avenged a loss earlier in the season.

In the first half, it was clear which team had been preparing for this game with a week off (that would be UK) and which was coming off a double-overtime loss (that would be Georgia). On top of that was the team, and the crowd, gearing up to avenge the Jan. 8 loss.

With those factors at play, UK forced three early turnovers and two misses in racing to a 14-4 lead.

“I remember at one point we had all five of us in defensive stance, clapping, the crowd’s into it,” Josh Harrellson said.

That scene was a contrast to the first meeting between these two teams, when Georgia “manhandled.”

But UK responded with a physical performance. In the first half, Darius Miller epitomized the shift when he took to the air, trying to dunk over two Georgia defenders.

The ball came loose and he was fouled, but Josh Harrellson nearly tackled him afterward applauding the effort.

“I just had an open lane, really,” said Miller, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. “We’ve been trying to finish at the rim, so I just tried to finish at the rim.”

UK sustained its play through the rest of the first half, slicing open Georgia’s 3-2 zone, which Georgia head coach Mark Fox said was played too long because of foul issues. UK sliced it open with drives and kicks in building a 39-24 lead.

“What I liked was we got the ball in the middle, we made the pass, we swung the ball and we knocked down the open shot,” Calipari said.

The play to close the first half, though, could have served as an omen: Gerald Robinson streaked 92 feet in seven seconds to put up a buzzer-beating layup attempt. Eloy Vargas, going for the block, tipped it in for him.

And in the second half, Georgia started coming back as UK started missing shots. UK made 51.7 percent of its shots in the first half, compared to 31.8 percent in the second half.

“We came out (second half) playing like we already won,” said Terrence Jones, who scored seven points and had seven rebounds. “They came back and got into it little by little. We started settling for threes.”

Added Josh Harrellson: “I just think we get comfortable. We were up 10, 12 points and got comfortable out there. Took our foot off the gas and put it in neutral and just rolled along.”

Georgia climbed within eight points with 8:21 to go, but never got closer than six points. Trey Thompkins missed multiple open three-pointers. It was one of those nights for Georgia stars; he scored nine points on 2-for-10 shooting, and Travis Leslie missed all seven shot attempts.

“Today we changed it up and didn’t let (Thompkins) get in the groove,” said Terrence Jones, who split the assignment with Harrellson. “I just wanted to keep my hands straight up and make shots difficult for him.”

Still, the end of the game was sloppy for UK. Up seven with a minute to go, Darius Miller was called for a five-second inbounding violation with four timeouts available. UK got a stop, and on the ensuing inbounds play Miller got it in – but then Knight fell out of bounds, giving the ball back.

UK ended up making enough free throws to stave off any desperation comeback, but it got closer than UK wanted.

“We easily left ourselves in a position that we could have dropped this,” Calipari said. “There was no reason for that. We had this game in hand.”


Calipari, part 1:

Calipari, part 2:

Terrence Jones:

Darius Miller:

Josh Harrellson: