Kentucky mens basketball seeks home conference win against Georgia


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. No. 5 Tennessee mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 63-56. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

Kentucky mens basketball seeks to improve to a .500 record in the SEC against Georgia on Tuesday after starting the season 1-3 in conference play.

The Wildcats currently stand at 2-3 in conference play after their 63-56 win over No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday.

While fans were frustrated this past week following a home loss to South Carolina that snapped the Cats’ 28-game home win streak, the win over Tennessee has many more excited and hopeful for the future.

Kentucky currently stands at 11-6 on the season, a disappointing figure after starting the season ranked No. 4 overall, but a win over the Bulldogs could help keep the Wildcats on track to finish the season strong and secure a better spot in the NCAA tournament.

Georgia currently stands at 13-4 (3-1 in the SEC) and, although the Bulldogs aren’t viewed as an elite team in the conference, UGA recorded a double-digit victory over No. 16 Auburn earlier this month and also defeated Ole Miss on the road on Saturday for its first road win of the season.

Guards Terry Roberts and Kario Oquendo are the Bulldogs’ leading scorers so far this season, notching 15.7 and 13.0 points per game respectively.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) shoots a free throw during the Kentucky vs. No. 5 Tennessee mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 63-56. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Another notable player for Kentucky to watch out for is 6-foot-11-inches center Braelen Bridges, who is averaging 4.7 rebounds per game and shooting 57% from the field.

Georgia has been more of a second half team this season, with a good number of their players, most notably Oquendo, tending to start off slow, but eventually break out as the game goes on.

Looking for other keys to victory for Kentucky, the Cats were really strong from the free-throw line in the Tennessee game after struggling all season with free points. If the Wildcats are able to keep this up, it could be the difference in a close game.

The chemistry between sharpshooters Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick was notable on Saturday as well, with the two combining to hit all five of Kentucky’s baskets from beyond the arc, something that will be critical for the Cats as the season goes on.

“You’re gonna go through slumps, obviously,” Fredrick said on Monday. “We just found a way to keep pushing and keep getting after it.”

The Tennessee game didn’t just bring optimism for Kentucky’s offense though, with the defense, despite being very weak in the loss to South Carolina, able to rack up 30 rebounds against the Vols and hold UT to only 3-21 in 3-pointers.

Head coach John Calipari is 20-3 against Georgia during his tenure with Kentucky and has led the Wildcats to 15 victories in their last 16 games against the Bulldogs.

Whether or not he is able to improve to 21-3 will all come down to what version of his Kentucky team takes the court against Georgia: the one that defeated the No. 5 team in the nation or the one that saw its streak snapped by the Gamecocks.

The Cats and the Bulldogs are scheduled to square off inside Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 9 p.m. EST, with the game set to be televised on ESPN.