Kentucky Falls to Georgia on Senior Night

March 4, 2009

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By Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Did Kentucky's NCAA Tournament bubble finally pop?

Nobody knows for sure what postseason fate awaits the men's basketball team, but a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Rupp Arena could be the final blow to UK's shaky resume.

Georgia, who came into the game losers of 13 of its last 15 games, played spoiler on Senior Night in a game that UK (19-11, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) desperately needed. Behind Terrance Woodbury's 30 points, the Bulldogs (12-18, 3-12 SEC) defeated the Wildcats 90-85 on Wednesday night in front of 23,889 fans.

"We're not trying to make excuses," sophomore Patrick Patterson said. "Nobody is emotionally tired on this team, we're not worn out. We're all just frustrated that we're losing so much."

The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs more than a month ago by 23 points in Athens, Ga., but UK's season has taken a sudden downturn since then. Playing on UK's Senior Night, Georgia's Woodbury nearly had a career night in his final visit to Rupp Arena, coming just two points short of tying his career high.

"This is my fourth time here, I'm a senior and every time I've been here we lost," Woodbury said. "It's sweet to get it now as a senior. It is a really big win for us and just have to grab some momentum."

UK led going into the half 49-47, but an early substitution at the 18:20 mark quickly changed the tempo of the game. Gillispie pulled Patrick Patterson, Jodie Meeks, Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris in favor of Landon Slone, Kevin Galloway, Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson.

Patterson said Gillispie took them out because of his missed rebound and a forced 3-pointer from Meeks.

"He sat me he down and said that's that not the way you play," Patterson said.

Gillispie might have been right, but when the starters went out Georgia made its run, reeling off 10 straight points to take a 61-53 lead.

Gillispie was quick to take the blame for the loss.

"No. 1 it's all my fault; I'll take the blame for it," Gillispie said. "But right now I'm having a real hard time finding three or four guys that play hard, play smart and play together at all times. I'm trying to find different things and none of them seem to be working right now."

But the substitution pattern wasn't the reason for the loss. UK pulled back in the game several times behind Jodie Meeks' 20 second-half points.

Meeks' 3-pointer from about four feet behind the line with two minutes to go cut the score to 83-80. Georgia never hit a field goal the rest of the way out, but Georgia hit seven free throws down the stretch to beat the Wildcats in Lexington for the first time since 2004.

Meeks finished the game with a team-high 23 points, but UK never led after the initial run in the second half. Gillispie said his team is competing as hard as ever, but a lack of maturity is causing this team to tailspin.

"I don't think that they have showed a great deal of maturity accepting a challenge," Gillispie said. "I think that when things go well for them they're really good, but I don't think that we've been tough enough nor mature enough to win when someone hits you in the mouth to hit them back."

Georgia, who is possibly trying to make a case for interim coach Pete Herrmann to get the job on a permanent basis, came out swinging right away.

The Bulldogs outrebounded UK 38-27, nailed 51.9 percent of their shots and buried 11-of-16 3-pointers, including nine of their first 12. For a team that ranks dead last in the SEC in field goal shooting, it appeared to come out of nowhere.

The problem is, those type of nights seem to be happening to UK on a fairly often basis of late.

"Not a lot of other teams do the same thing they do until they play against Kentucky," Gillispie said. "A lot of teams seem to having really good games against us."

Gillispie admitted he was frustrated after the game. He's said in the past week that he's never had a team that's harder to figure out on a day-to-day basis.

But after losing three straight games, he's put the blame solely on his shoulders.

"Any mistakes that are made are my fault because I'm in charge, especially on the execution (part)" Gillispie said.

UK had a few bright spots. Junior guard Michael Porter had a career-high 15 points on a career-high five 3-pointers and UK dished out 16 assists, but the only stat that matters now is winning, Gillispie said.

Winning several games in the SEC Tournament might be the only thing that saves UK's chances at an NCAA Tournament bid, but Meeks said the Wildcats' season isn't over with.

"When it comes down to it, we just have to find a way to win games," Meeks said. "There is still time. We still have one more game in the SEC season and the SEC Tournament. There is still time. We just can't let games like this keep slipping away."