Dawgs’ worst friend

Crawford torches Georgia for the second time this season in Cats win

Sundiata Gaines looked at the clock and sighed. Georgia’s senior guard backpedaled down the court after another missed shot, watching as UK forward Perry Stevenson corralled another rebound. More than two minutes remained on the clock, but despair had set into Gaines’ face.

Just minutes earlier, Gaines’ 3-pointer had cut UK’s lead to three, but the Bulldogs went cold and never came closer, falling 61-55 last night in front of 22,271 fans at Rupp Arena.

Gaines and the Dawgs (12-12, 3-8 Southeastern Conference) had clawed back from as far down as 16 points before falling short, even as the Cats (14-10, 8-3 SEC) struggled to put points on the board.

“Georgia, or any team in the SEC, they’re not going to quit,” senior guard Ramel Bradley said. “We did a really good job of putting ourselves in position to win the basketball game. We had to gut it out.”

Early on, it looked like the Cats were going to waltz to an easy victory.

Senior guard Joe Crawford continued his love affair with Georgia, hitting three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the game while scoring 11 of UK’s first 18 points. Crawford finished with 23 points, his 13th consecutive game in double-figures and third consecutive 20-point game against Georgia.

“I don’t know what it is,” Crawford said. “I just happen to have great games against them. I could have finished stronger, but we played well as a team.”

Crawford’s 3-point shooting, along with the inside presence of freshman forward Patrick Patterson, pushed UK out to a 20-4 lead early. Patterson added 20 points, and he, Crawford and Bradley combined for 51 of UK’s 61 points.

Patterson is now just 82 points shy of Rex Chapman’s UK freshman scoring record of 464 points.

UK made 8-of-11 field goals — including 4-of-5 3-pointers — to begin the game, and though the Dawgs got back into the contest, the hot start was enough to hold them off.

After shooting 52 percent in the first half, the Cats managed to shoot just 41 percent for the game.

The Cats watched their 16-point lead melt to just seven at the half, and Georgia continued to chip away when they returned to the court.

Gaines nailed a 3-pointer to cut the UK lead to 55-52 with 6:28 to play, but the Cats held Georgia without a point until Zac Swansey’s 3-pointer with just 12 seconds to play.

“If we were a little mentally tougher, it doesn’t get to that point,” Gillispie said. “We haven’t had a lead like that in a long time. We didn’t guard like we needed to.”

The Cats held Georgia to 32 percent from the field and blocked eight shots, including four by Stevenson. Led by Bradley’s 12 rebounds, the Cats also won the battle on the glass, just the fourth time Georgia has been outrebounded in SEC play.

“I thought the game might have been decided by which point guard got the most defensive rebounds,” Gillispie said, alluding to the combined 22 total rebounds by Bradley and Gaines.

While the point guards stole the show on the boards, it was Crawford who left Georgia feeling blue yet again.

“We need Joe to play like that all the time,” Gillispie said. “I wish he would have gone

for 40.”