By RICHARD CHEEKS
After a slide that spanned more than 4 weeks, the Cats have not only found bottom but bounced off that bottom with their second consecutive solid game. On Tuesday night, the Cats avenged their earlier 2 point loss at Tennessee with a powerful 25 point win. In that winning effort, the Cats played their strongest overall game since they dismantled Texas A&M in early January. In the first half, the Cats methodically built a 15 point lead and in the second half there was never any chance for Tennessee to entertain thoughts of climbing back into the game.
In the second half, the Cats extended the 15 point halftime lead to a game high 28 points near the end of the game.
The strong team effort resulted from very solid play by several individual players. The players seemed to make substantial improvements. Malik Monk grabbed 8 rebounds, four in each half. Edrice (BAM) Adebayo demonstrated deftness in decision making in the post that found Derek Willis, Malik Monk, Mychal Mulder, and Dominique Hawkins on the perimeter for 3 pointers when the Vols’ defensive strategy was to stop Edrice (BAM) Adebayo in the post with double and triple team defenders.
Furthermore, when Tennessee finally had to abandon this defensive plan because of the Cats’ outstanding perimeter shooting, Edrice (BAM) Adebayo scored at will in the post against a single defender. The 3 point shooting by Derek Willis and Malik Monk was outstanding, and De’Aaron Fox played the entire game with no turnovers.
The wins at Alabama and against Tennessee has lifted the Big Blue Nation’s mood. The fan base quickly recognized the quality of play that this team had routinely demonstrated in November, December, and early January. Now, the Cats now head to Athens, Georgia for a rematch with those Dawgs. In their first encounter with Georgia this season, the Cats started poorly, falling behind 12-0 in the first 3 ½ minutes of the game. The Cats fought for the remainder of the first half to draw even at the buzzer, 29-29.
In the second half, the Cats opened strong, and moved to a 6 point lead, 39-33, and maintained that lead through the under 8 media timeout. However, Georgia pulled even with the Cats, 70-70 with 3:47 remaining in the game. Georgia moves on top 76-74 with 22 seconds left. Malik Monk was able to make a jump shot from the left baseline to tie the score and send the game into overtime. In the overtime, the Cats managed to secure a hard fought 90-81 win.
Since leaving Rupp with the overtime loss, GEORGIA lost its next two games, at #27 South Carolina by 2 and to #6 Florida by 12. The Dawgs stopped their 3 game losing skid with a 1 point win at #42 Tennessee and over #98 Mississippi State by 7. GEORGIA enters the game with a 15-11; 6-7 record. GEORGIA enters this game with an ANE of 0.137 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.1025 ppp (#14).
The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.295 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0862 ppp (#28). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 6 points, 76-70 at apace of 73 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.036 ppp and 0.954 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 6 points 79-73 at a pace of 73 possessions, and Vegas has opened with the Cats favored by 7.
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