The Kentucky Wildcats are on to the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the fifth straight year. The Wildcats knocked the Georgia Bulldogs out of the Quarterfinals with their 62-49 victory on Friday afternoon. In effect, they ended UGA’s season set up a huge semifinal matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Kentucky’s defense was the star of the show on Friday in St. Louis. The Wildcats, who’d been rounding into form lately, continued that trend in their win over the Dawgs. They held them to merely 28.3 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. That was on 53 and 23 attempts, by the way. So it’s not like UGA was shy. Coach Cal has always preached defensively, and the 2017-18 squad appears to be no different.
Offensively, P.J. Washington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox all stood out. Washington was perhaps the star for UK, as he had 18 points and shot 66.7 percent from the field on his 12 attempts. Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox each had 15 points, and while both were inefficient, they each contributed in other areas, too. Knox, for example, had nine rebounds and two assists. Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, had nine assists and four rebounds.
The trio committed a combined three turnovers, with Washington owning two of them in 35 minutes. Knox had no turnovers despite playing 37 minutes, and Shai had only one in 37 minutes.
UK will have to hope that their 3-point percentage fares better on Saturday, though. The Wildcats shot only 29.4 percent from beyond the arc, but did make 3-of-7 in the second half.
The road for Yante Maten has come to an end for now. Maten, one of the best players to ever suit up for Georgia, was snuffed out by Kentucky’s stifling defense on Friday. Maten was held to just nine points and was a cold 2-of-10 from the field. That shouldn’t detract from what was a brilliant career in black and red in Athens, which will likely continue on until the bitter end in the NIT, and he’ll certainly be remembered for a long while.
Tyree Crump led the Bulldogs in scoring, as Crump dropped 17 points in the loss. Derek Ogbeide led in rebounds with 11, while five players couldn’t get more than one assist.
With Kentucky’s win, the Wildcats are in the SEC Tournament Semifinals again. That’s five years in a row and eight of the last nine under John Calipari. The lone miss was, of course, the outlier in 2013. And the Wildcats will get a stern test on Saturday afternoon. Awaiting them are Collin Sexton and the Alabama Crimson Tide, who’ve been rolling through the SEC Tourney so far. Sexton and the Tide knocked off the Texas A&M Aggies in dramatic fashion and then the 1-seeded Auburn Tigers in a dominant showing. The stage will be set for a matchup between Sexton and fellow Co-Freshman of the Year, Kevin Knox, and it should be a doozy in St. Louis.