ATHENS — Billy Gillispie and his Kentucky Wildcats are keeping their three-game winning streak in perspective.
The Wildcats aren’t ranked and they don’t even make the RPI’s top 125, so there’s no need to talk about their hopes for postseason play in March. But at least they can call themselves winners again.
Joe Crawford scored 26 points, including a 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run to open the second half, and Kentucky overcame the loss of Ramel Bradley to beat Georgia 63-58 on Saturday.
Freshman Patrick Patterson added 16 points as Kentucky (10-9 overall, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) moved over .500 for the first time since December.
What does three straight SEC wins, including handing Georgia its first home loss of the season, mean for Kentucky?
"I think it just shows that we’re continuing to improve," Gillispie said.
For a team which began the day with a Ratings Percentage Index of only 135, there’s still a long way to go.
Kentucky overcame the loss of Bradley and also played strong late in the game without Crawford, who suffered cramping in his foot and was limited to 31 minutes.
"It just shows a lot of heart by our players who don’t get a lot of minutes," said sophomore Derrick Jasper.
Added Gillispie: "We did everything we could do as far as all the intangibles to go on the road and win. ... We had a good lead on them and they came back and took the lead and our guys didn’t blink. Our mental toughness and physical toughness have really developed."
Kentucky lost guard Bradley with 8:44 left in the first half when the senior, attempting a fast-break layup, was knocked to the court from behind by Georgia’s Dave Bliss. Bradley landed hard and appeared groggy when he left the court.
Bradley, who joined warmups for the start of the second half before he was sent back to the lockerroom, suffered a Grade 2 concussion and a cut on his chin, according to Gillispie.
Gillispie said he didn’t know Bradley’s status for Wednesday’s game at Auburn.
Crawford was given intravenous fluids after the game. Bradley and Crawford were not available for comment.
Harris scored a career-high 9 points and Porter played 18 minutes, his most in an SEC game.
"That’s the best game I have ever seen him play, no question," said Gillispie of Harris, a sophomore who made 4 of 5 shots.
Kentucky’s go-to scorer, however, was Crawford.
"He was fantastic," Gillispie said. "It was the best offensive game he’s played all year long, in my opinion, because his shots were so timely."
Added Georgia coach Dennis Felton: "Joe Crawford played a heck of a game for them. He made a lot of tough shots and proved just how good of a scorer he is."
Sundiata Gaines hit a 3-pointer with 5:19 left to give Georgia its last lead at 54-53, but the Bulldogs managed only one more field goal the rest of the game. Troy Brewer sank a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.
Georgia (11-8, 2-4) suffered its third straight loss and had its 11-game home winning streak end, including 10 wins in Athens this season.
Georgia, last in the SEC in scoring and shooting in conference games, has been held under 60 points in four of six SEC games.
"I thought we played really hard today, especially on defense, but we just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had throughout the game," Felton said.
"We had 17 offensive rebounds, which is a tremendous number, and gave ourselves plenty of chances to build a lead, but we were never able to break through and give ourselves any type of cushion."
Kentucky led only 30-29 at halftime but stretched the lead to 40-29 with the 10-0 run. After Crawford’s 3-pointer, Michael Porter’s steal set up a basket by Ramon Harris.
Patterson capped the run with a jam.
Georgia, led by Gaines’ 15 points, recovered with a 9-0 run and regained the lead at 48-47 on a baseline drive by Terrance Woodbury, who had 12 points.
After Gaines gave Georgia its last lead at 54-53, Crawford answered with his fifth 3-pointer.
Georgia trailed 58-55 when Woodbury committed a turnover which led to an alley-oop jam by Patterson, giving Kentucky a 60-55 lead with 56 seconds left.
Bliss had 10 points and 8 rebounds, helping Georgia take a 40-31 advantage in rebounds.