ATHENS, Ga. – P.J. Horne’s layup with just over a second remaining helped the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeat the Kentucky Wildcats, 63-62, Wednesday evening before 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.
The thrilling victory was Georgia’s (9-4, 2-4 SEC) first over Kentucky (4-9, 3-3 SEC) since a 72-62 home win on March 7, 2013. The Bulldogs have now won back-to-back conference games for the first time since topping Auburn and Vanderbilt late last season. Coincidentally, that streak was also capped by a game winner in Tyree Crump’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Vanderbilt on Feb. 22, 2020.
Graduate Andrew Garcia led Georgia with 16 points on 8-for-12 shooting and six rebounds. Freshman K.D. Johnson finished with 10 points and five boards, while sophomore Sahvir Wheeler notched 10 points and a team-leading seven assists, including the game-winning inbounds pass. Additionally, sophomore Toumani Camara hauled in nine rebounds and graduate Justin Kier tied his season high with five steals.
Overall, Georgia shot 38.8 percent from the field and outscored Kentucky, 44-36, in the paint. The Bulldogs also held the Wildcats to 1-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc and led transition points by a 20-7 margin.
“It’s a great win against a great program,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “I’m glad we were able to break (the 14-game losing streak to Kentucky). We needed the win. Our guys needed a win like this against a great opponent…I’m proud of how they executed, how they persevered. We believed that we were going to win. I think that’s what’s so important.”
Both teams fought for buckets in the early going, with a 3-pointer from Horne helping Georgia build a 10-6 lead in the first six minutes of play. Despite struggling in its outside shooting, Kentucky took advantage of inside play to keep the score close before taking the lead midway through the half. The Bulldogs then turned to the paint to regain the lead, including three straight layups and a fast break dunk from Camara.
Coming out of the media timeout, the Bulldogs remained energized as Horne and Johnson connected on back-to-back threes to build a 26-17 advantage with five minutes to play in the period. The Wildcats quickly closed the margin to one point with an 8-0 run, but the Bulldogs were able to hold them scoreless for the 90 seconds of the half and maintain a 30-27 lead at intermission.
Kentucky retook the lead in the opening minute of the second half, but Georgia countered with a 6-0 run, capped off by another Camara dunk. Both teams went back-and-forth in scoring, with a goaltending call putting the Bulldogs up by three with 12 minutes to play. Spurred on by a technical foul against Garcia, the Wildcats then posted eight unanswered points to move ahead by the under-8 timeout.
Despite going over five minutes without a field goal, the Bulldogs were able to keep the Wildcats close, trailing by only two with three minutes remaining. After a short Kentucky run, Johnson again narrowed the margin with a deep triple. Then, with 34 seconds left, a Garcia layup brought the Bulldogs to within one.
Following a missed free throw, Wheeler drove to the rim, but was blocked out-of-bounds by freshman forward Isaiah Jackson. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Wheeler found Horne under the basket for the game-winning layup, completing a 7-0 Georgia run to close the contest.
“Sahvir did a great job, first calling the timeout, and second, with the pass,” said Crean. “Justin did a great job with the screen, and certainly, P.J. with the finish. For Sahvir to have that presence of mind—I never hesitated for a second having him take the ball out of bounds because he’s so smart and he’s savvy, and I knew he would make the right play.”
Georgia remains home for its annual rivalry game against Florida (7-4, 4-3 SEC) on Saturday, Jan. 23 at Stegeman Coliseum. The matchup with the Gators is set for a 2 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on ESPN2.