At the buzzer: Kentucky defeats Georgia 85-71 inside Rupp Arena


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forward Chris Livingston (24) shoots the ball 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

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball defeated Georgia 85-71 inside Rupp Arena on Tuesday, earning a victory inside Rupp Arena for the first time since Jan. 3.

The Wildcats entered the game having lost its previous home game, a 71-68 stunner against South Carolina, but having claimed a major victory on the road over No. 5 Tennessee over the weekend.

Standing at 2-3 in the SEC heading in, the game was an opportunity for the Cats to dig themselves out of the losing conference-record hole they had found themselves in.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches his team 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)

Starting the game with a lineup of CJ Fredrick, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin, Chris Livingston and Oscar Tshiebwe, it took the Wildcats less than five minutes to make a change, subbing sharpshooter Antonio Reeves into the game for Livingston. The squad had become dubbed “the lineup” for its performance against the Volunteers but was ultimately short lived in the game after the returning Sahvir Wheeler entered the game with over 15 minutes left on the clock.

Despite the return of its former starting point guard, Kentucky struggled in the first half, entering the halfway break trailing by eight points with the score at 42-34.

At the half Tshiebwe led the Cats, accounting for 14 of UK’s 34 points, or roughly 41% of all offensive production.

As a team Kentucky struggled from the field in the first half, shooting 33% while the Bulldogs recorded a 56% shooting percentage. While it’s from-the-field percentage was nothing to praise, Kentucky did manage to finish the first half 10-11 (91%) from the free-throw line, a sign of improvement for a team that had been shooting around 60% prior to the win over Tennessee.

Entering the second half with a deficit and a lot of work to do to send the home fans away happy, Kentucky came out of the break lively, or rather, Tshiebwe did, recording the next five points in the game and Kentucky’s first nine of the second half by himself.

“Big O” would not be alone though, with a shot from beyond the arc courtesy of Fredrick giving the Cats the lead with just over 17 minutes left in the half.

Regardless, Tshiebwe continued his dominance, reaching 25 points with 15 minutes left in the game and 15 rebounds to go along with it.

Despite the offensive surge, Georgia refused to die, re-tying the game at 55 less than three minutes later, forcing Kentucky head coach John Calipari to call a timeout.

Tshiebwe hit the 30-point mark with just under five minutes left to play, giving the home crowd something to cheer for amidst a flurry of officiating decisions that the Big Blue Nation made sure its displeasure was voiced about.

Finally amassing a 10-point lead with under three minutes left to play, Kentucky put the nail in the coffin, having won 96% of its matchups in which it led by at least 10 points under Calipari all-time.

With the final buzzer finally sounding, the Wildcats stood victorious in the game, led by Tshiebwe, who’s final total was 37 and 24 rebounds.

Wallace, Toppin and Reeves also finished with double-digit point totals, scoring 17, 11 and 11 respectively.

As a team, Kentucky vastly improved its shooting, finishing the second half shooting 54.5% from the field on 33 total attempts.

Kentucky also dominated the boards, in big part thanks to Tshiebwe, outrebounding the Bulldogs 44-31.

Now, having won back-to-back conference games for the first time this season, Kentucky looks to make it three as it hosts the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 2 p.m. EST.