Kentucky Wildcats vs. Georgia Bulldogs Pick & Prediction JANUARY 20th 2024

The metrics loved Mississippi State’s defense —’s system had the Bulldogs ranked eighth in Division I in defensive efficiency rating.

It turns out that No. 8 Kentucky loved Mississippi State’s defense, too. The Wildcats two-stepped on them for 90 points, 74.2 percent 2-point shooting, and 23-of- 27 foul shooting in a 13-point win that for most of Wednesday night felt more like a 20-point victory.

Kentucky’s offense will take aim at Georgia on Saturday in another Southeastern Conference contest in Lexington, Ky.

The Wildcats (13-3, 3-1) arguably will have their most well-rounded offensive attack of the John Calipari era. They rank fourth in’s in offensive efficiency at 121.1 points per 100 possessions, sixth in effective field-goal percentage at 57.3, and third in turnover rate with just 12.9.

Throw in unselfish play — the team logs assists on more than 56 percent of its buckets — and you have a club that’s scored at least 81 points in every game but one this season and is leading Division I in scoring at 90.8 points per game.

“Coming (against) a top 10 defensive team, it means a lot to us,” leading scorer Antonio Reeves said of the latest explosion. “That we’re just headed in the right direction.”

Reeves is one important reason why. Against Mississippi State, he scored a game-high 27 points on just 12 field-goal attempts, going 9 of 9 at the line. The player who won the Missouri Valley Conference scoring title two seasons ago at Illinois State is averaging 19.4 points per game in his second SEC season and shooting 51.7 percent from the field.

Reeves said part of the reason is because he’s gotten back to attacking off the dribble, as he did at Illinois State.

“I really could create for myself and get in the lane,” he said. “I’m really drawing back into that. I’m playing freely.”

While Kentucky overwhelms its opponents with offensive firepower, Georgia (13-4, 3-1) continues to surprise them by finding different ways to win. The Bulldogs got back into the win column Tuesday night by rallying from a second-half deficit to take a 74-69 decision at South Carolina.

Georgia trailed by five midway through the half before unleashing a 10-1 run that gave it the lead for good and then used the foul line to seal the outcome. The Bulldogs were 25 of 32 at the line, while the Gamecocks were an ugly 17 of 32.

“Huge, our biggest win of the year,” Bulldogs coach Mike White said. “South Carolina is an NCAA Tournament team.”

It was the 11th win in 12 games for the Bulldogs, who could own a 12-game winning streak if it weren’t for a collapse in the final five minutes of an 85-79 loss against Tennessee on Jan. 13. Georgia was outscored 15-1 down the stretch.

The Bulldogs’ success has been based on their ability to defend fiercely. They rank 43rd in’s defensive efficiency ratings at 98 points per 100 possessions. Opponents’ effective field-goal percentage of 45.7 is 28th in Division I.

–Field Level Media

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