It was Kentucky's 13th consecutive win over Georgia, which hadn't beaten the Wildcats in Athens since March 2013. Kentucky improved to 11-3.
Dropping their SEC opener, the Bulldogs fell to 10-4. The loss came on the heels of Saturday's historic road win over No. 9 Memphis, which was the program's second in a ranked-team's gym in 115 seasons of basketball.
It won't get any easier as Georgia’s next stop is Saturday at Auburn against the fifth-ranked and undefeated Tigers (13-0).
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Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards led the Bulldogs with 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting, and Jordan Harris came off the bench to add 10. It was an off-night for Rayshaun Hammonds, who fouled out with nine points on 2-of-9 shooting, and freshman guard Sahvir Wheeler, who had four turnovers. Georgia also left a lot of points on the foul line, where it was 16-of-23.
Kentucky got 17 points from freshman Tyrese Maxey and junior Nick Richards and 15 from sophomore Immanuel Quickley. The Wildcats shot 50 percent for the game and 58.6 percent in the second half. They were an uncharacteristic 10-of-20 from the free-throw line.
The SEC opener was a solid sellout, with 10,523 in attendance. Unlike previous years, barely 1,000 of those were occupied by Kentucky fans.
"Not winning doesn't really take away from the atmosphere. We had a fantastic crowd,” said Harris, who also tied for the team lead in rebounds (6) and assists (3) Tuesday night.
“This is the best environment I have played in here, and I am a senior. I want to thank the fans personally from the team. They really showed up and had an impact tonight. We just let the game slip away.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was impressed with what he saw, both from the team on the floor and environment surrounding it.
“This is one of the top two or three jobs in our league. I mean that,” Calipari said. “They’ve got, what, nine freshmen? Tom will get them there.”
Georgia led 37-31 at halftime and was ahead 55-50 with 9:50 to play. But then the Wildcats came surging back.
A 3-pointer by Immanuel Quickley gave Kentucky its first lead since the first half at 58-57 with 8:04 remaining in the game. The Wildcats had been on the charge for a while.
With Edwards on the bench for more than three minutes midway through the second half, Kentucky went from down three to ahead by three. Edwards had 16 points when he went out. He finally returned at the 7:40 mark, then the Wildcats extended the lead to six on Richards’ three-point play.
“Coaches decision,” Edwards said of being out of the game at that point.
Said Crean: “He’s got to rest some. Right? We’ve got to get him out of the game some. There’s no rhyme or reason that he wasn’t doing this or that. It was a stretch run coming and we don’t have 40-minute players. That’s not we have here.”
The Bulldogs got within two points on Tyree Crump's fast-break layup that made it 63-61. But missed 3-pointers by Crump and Edwards and an off-the-mark jumper by Edwards were wrapped around a Quickley 3 to stretch the lead to 66-61 with 3:55 to play. The teams traded free throws and baskets the rest of the way.
“We didn’t play with toughness in the second half,” Edwards said. “I played bad defense, we all played bad defense.”
Georgia took a 37-31 lead into it locker room at halftime, but it was hard not to think about what could have been.
The Bulldogs used an 8-0 run in the last two minutes of the half to surge ahead 37-28. The last of the points were the most impressive. They came on an Edwards baseline-driving dunk off a feed from Sahvir Wheeler and ended with Edwards posing in front of an appreciative Young.
But, almost stealthily, Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans received the inbounds pass and took off straight down the court to make an uncontested 3 to close the half.
In addition to that defensive breakdown, the Bulldogs missed 6 of 14 free throws in the first half and were 3-of-11 from 3-point range.
Edwards said Georgia fans can expect a better effort next time out.
“They can look forward to us being more of a team, playing better team defense and winning more games,” the freshman said. “We took a tough loss today but we are going to come back and be better.”