ATHENS, Ga. (AP)—Kentucky wasn’t in a sympathetic mood against outmanned Georgia.
Not after what happened last season.
Patrick Sparks scored 15 points against his former coach, and the ninth-ranked Wildcats cruised to a 76-55 victory over Georgia on Saturday.
Kentucky (12-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) remembered getting swept by the Bulldogs a year ago, including a stunning defeat at Rupp Arena. Georgia lost four key players from that team, leaving a talent-deprived roster that had no chance of duplicating the feat.
“You’ve got to remember: They beat us twice last year,” Kentucky sophomore Shagari Alleyne said. “That was motivation enough for me.”
Chuck Hayes added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, who led by as many as 30 points.
Georgia (6-8) dropped to 0-4 in the SEC for the first time since 1998, when the Bulldogs opened league play with five straight losses.
Kentucky’s dominance was most evident on the boards, where the Wildcats held a staggering 44-18 rebounding edge. Georgia didn’t have anyone with more than three rebounds.
Assists were another telling statistic. Kentucky had 19, led by Sparks with five. That was as many as Georgia had as a team—five players with one each.
“It was a challenge for us to stay focused,” said Hayes, who became the 52nd player in Kentucky history to reach 1,000 points in his career. “I think we handled it pretty well. We just had a little slippage for a minute or two.”
Sparks began his career at Western Kentucky, playing for Dennis Felton. When the coach moved to Georgia, Sparks transferred to Kentucky, his choice of schools all along.
After sitting out a year, Sparks claimed a spot in the Wildcats’ lineup with his passing and outside shooting. He got going in this one with an early 3-pointer, the first of three shots he would hit from beyond the arc.
Sparks didn’t get a whole lot of pleasure from beating his former coach.
“We’re still friends,” the junior guard said. “He’s in a tough situation. His players are in a tough situation. The whole situation is bad.”
Hayes wasn’t too fired up, either, even though the senior now has 1,006 points.
“It had to come sooner or later,” Hayes said. “I guess I’m on the back page of the media guide now with the other 1,000-point scorers.”
Freshman Ramel Bradley chipped in with 14 points for the Wildcats, who shot 56 percent (30-of-54) from the field.
Georgia kept it fairly respectable in the first half, going to the locker room with a 35-23 deficit. But the Wildcats began to blow it open early in the second half, dunking at will against the Bulldogs.
During a 17-2 spurt that turned it into a full-fledged rout, Kentucky scored 10 points on dunks. Sparks set up a couple of slams with perfectly placed lob passes, and the 7-foot-3 Alleyne barely had to jump on a jam that made it 57-31.
Georgia had only six scholarship players in uniform, its plight epitomized when four walk-ons were on the court for a short stretch in the first half. While those players managed to do a decent job at the defensive end, they had little hope of scoring against the taller, quicker Wildcats.
While Felton knew what his team was up against, he wouldn’t excuse the huge margin on the boards.
“We still have to find a way to do better than that,” he said. “We have to make up for it in aggressiveness and tenacity. We were too passive pretty much right out of the gates.”
Kentucky led all the way, building a 12-2 lead just 5 minutes into the game. From that early deficit, the Bulldogs never got any closer than seven the rest of the way.
The Wildcats’ biggest lead was 68-38.
Levi Stukes led Georgia with 18 points, and Channing Toney was the only teammate in double figures with 10.
After losing four seniors from the team that swept Kentucky a year ago, the big question around Athens is whether the Bulldogs can win an SEC game this season.
They played respectably in losses to Tennessee and Mississippi, but the other two conference games have been ugly: a 20-point defeat at South Carolina and the expected blowout by the Wildcats.
Kentucky improved its lead in the series against Georgia to a staggering 103-21.
“I guess the (score at the) end of the game showed which team played much harder,” Stukes said.
And which team was clearly better.