No. 14 Kentucky is the standard that all other SEC teams look to emulate, but Tuesday night in Athens, Ga., it’s Georgia that’s coming in with the momentum.
The Bulldogs (10-3, 0-0) are fresh off one of the program’s biggest wins in years, a 65-62 road victory Saturday at No. 9 Memphis in what was just Georgia’s second road triumph over a ranked nonconference foe in 115 years.
To find the last time Georgia beat a top-10 team on the road, you have to go all the way back to 2004. Saturday marked the Bulldogs’ first win — home or away — over a top-10 team since 2011.
“Considering the way, we started — when earlier in the year where I’m not sure we believe we could win — I never looked back at these guys and not seeing them believe that we would not find a way to win the game,” head coach Tom Crean said. “As a coach, that’s the best possible thing you can look at, is look in their eye and have them looking back at you and not having to convince them that they could win the game. That’s huge.”
Next up is Kentucky (10-3, 1-0), which opened SEC play Saturday with a 71-59 win over Missouri.
Wildcats coach John Calipari has warned his team that road games in the SEC aren’t easy.
“League play is totally different. But I’m trying to keep these kids thinking about, are you getting better?” Calipari said. “Are you listening? Are you becoming a better teammate? Are you playing the way the team needs you to play? Are you so concerned with yourself you can’t play for us?
“… Kids gotta grow up fast. You can’t pout here. You can’t be a baby. Babies gotta sit on the back of the bus. You’ve gotta sit on the bench and watch us. You’ve gotta compete and play.”
Unfortunately for Kentucky, the Wildcats might not be at full strength. Starting point guard Ashton Hagans suffered an ankle injury against Missouri and is questionable for Tuesday’s game.
“Maybe he’s out. Maybe he doesn’t play against Georgia (on Tuesday),” Calipari said. “Then you’re going to see the impact and importance he has on this team.”
Before beating the Tigers, the Wildcats went 1-1 against consecutive top-five foes. They fell 71-65 to then-No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 21, before beating then-No. 3 Louisville 78-70 in overtime on Dec. 28.
For Georgia, which counts nine true freshmen among it’s 14-man roster, Tuesday’s contest marks the SEC debut for possibly lottery pick Anthony Edwards, the third-leading scorer in the SEC at 18.4 points per game.
“He’s one of the great teammates at his age that I’ve ever been around. He’s a young 18, should be a senior in high school playing at Christmas Tournaments back in Atlanta, and he’s here helping us win,” Crean said. “The biggest thing we want him to have is to understand not only how to win but how important it is for him knowing he’s a winner because he’s a heck of a young man, a heck of a teammate, he’s got tremendous talent basketball-wise.
“We want him to be an outstanding winner, because that’s going to carry on with him the rest of his career.”
–Field Level Media