Kentucky 82, Georgia 70
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—Bobby Perry had a season-high 22 points and a career best four 3-pointers in his final game at Rupp Arena as Kentucky broke out of a slump with an 82-70 victory over Georgia Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (20-9, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) had lost four of their previous five games, prompting a statement from the school’s athletics director this week that heightened speculation about coach Tubby Smith’s job security.
Although Kentucky’s NCAA tournament resume already appeared relatively secure, a loss would have dropped college basketball’s all-time winningest program into fifth place in the six-team SEC East. Instead, the Bulldogs (17-11, 8-7) now occupy that spot while the Wildcats are tied with Tennessee for third.
Kentucky took a 66-48 lead with eight minutes left when Ramel Bradley banked in a 3-pointer, got a rebound and threw a long pass to a breaking Joe Crawford for an easy layup.
Despite the 18-point lead, there was some restlessness up until the end. After all, the Wildcats had led by 17 five weeks ago in Athens, Ga., only to lose to the Bulldogs in overtime.
Georgia cut the lead to 73-65 with just under two minutes left when Terrance Woodbury nailed consecutive 3s and Takais Brown added a fastbreak dunk. Woodbury led the Bulldogs with 18 points.
But Bradley, who also had 18 points, answered with a 3-pointer to help preserve the victory.
Perry joined fellow seniors Lukasz Obrzut and Sheray Thomas in the starting lineup for the Wildcats, but he was the one who stood out. He scored Kentucky’s first seven points of the night, then added a 3-pointer just before halftime to give the Wildcats a 34-28 lead at the break.
Kentucky took the lead for good one possession earlier on a three-point play by Derrick Jasper.
The Wildcats made 59 percent of their shots, tied for their second-best performance of the year. However, they did have 17 turnovers, including 10 in a sloppy first half for both sides. Nine minutes into the game, the teams had combined for 12 turnovers compared with only one assist.
Georgia, which already had lost guard Mike Mercer to a knee injury earlier this month, had to play without another one Wednesday. Levi Stukes didn’t make the trip to Lexington because of a one-game suspension coach Dennis Felton imposed for what he said was conduct detrimental to the team.
On Monday, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart released a statement urging fans to exercise patience and not judge the program until after the NCAA tournament. Some fans perceived that as an ultimatum for Smith to improve the record soon, but Smith said he viewed it as a sign of support from the administration.
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