LEXINGTON, Ky. — Joe Crawford scored 23 points and Patrick Patterson added 20 points and nine rebounds as Kentucky held off Georgia 61-55 on Tuesday.
Ramel Bradley had eight points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (14-10, 8-3 Southeastern Conference), who swept the season series from the Bulldogs (12-12, 3-8) to keep a firm grip on second-place in the SEC’s Eastern Division.
Terrance Woodbury led Georgia with 15 points and Sundiata Gaines had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but the Bulldogs shot just 32 percent from the floor and made just one field goal over the game’s final six minutes.
Kentucky led by as many as 16, but the Bulldogs managed to hang around and got within three at 55-52 on a 3-pointer by Gaines with 6:22 to play. But Georgia couldn’t quite make it all the way back. Six straight possessions the Bulldogs had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to one or tie.
It never happened. Bradley ended a four-minute drought for the Wildcats with a putback off a Patterson miss to push the lead to 57-52, and Kentucky’s aggressive defense kept the Bulldogs from getting any closer.
Georgia center Dave Bliss, who knocked Bradley out of the game with a hard foul during Kentucky’s win at Georgia on Feb. 2, was booed lustily by the crowd each time he touched the ball. Bradley said before the game that he was over the incident, claiming it was just something that happens during the course of a game.
Bradley’s patience was tested again late, when he took an elbow from Billy Humphrey in the game’s final minutes. Bradley went sprawling to the floor after the foul but popped back up and collected himself as Rupp Arena roared.
Crawford wasted little time heating up, knocking down three 3-pointers in the game’s first three minutes as Kentucky roared to a 20-4 lead and seemed ready to do to the Bulldogs what Vanderbilt did to the Wildcats in a 41-point rout last week.
Crawford, however, cooled off while Georgia steadied itself behind a steady dose of Woodbury. The Bulldogs eventually cut the gap to 33-30 before two free throws by Patterson and a layup by Bradley pushed the Wildcats to a 37-30 lead at the break.
Kentucky played without guard Jodie Meeks, who continues to struggle with a strained hip flexor.