Karl Towns was Kentucky’s savior on Tuesday night.
With the No. 1 Wildcats struggling offensively and down nine to Georgia in a rocking Stegeman Coliseum, John Calipari started to pound the ball into his most talented big man, and Towns delivered. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the final 11 minutes, overwhelming Georgia’s smaller front line and sparking a 21-6 run that kept the Wildcats perfect. They’re now just the fourth team to go 30-0 since Bob Knight’s 1976 Indiana team had an undefeated season.
Kentucky would go on to win 72-64 despite a terrific effort from the Bulldogs, who executed a flawless game-plan to perfection.
I don’t say that lightly, either.
For 30 minutes, Georgia only made a single mistake, a flagrant foul committed by Kenny Gaines on a fast break that gave the Wildcats a four-point possession and five-point lead late in the first half. And to be frank, they didn’t make too many mistakes down the stretch, either.
Kentucky just … turned it on.
And that’s what makes this team so scary heading into March.
They’ve played some pretty poor games during SEC play. They were lit up by Ole Miss from the perimeter in an overtime win. They set offensive basketball back a decade with their double-overtime win over Texas A&M. LSU erased a 13-point deficit with a 21-2 second half run, which the Wildcats needed to answer in the final minutes. They were wobbled by a couple of right hooks at Florida, but bounced back to win in one of the toughest environments in the country.
On Tuesday night, Kentucky dug themselves a hole with their inability to finish around the rim and some fairly poor — by their standards — defending. But when they needed to, when the gameclock hit winning time, the Wildcats suddenly became impenetrable defensively and unstoppable offensively. It’s incredible how their able to go on those runs, to the point that it never felt like Georgia was ever in control of the game on Tuesday. We were just waiting for Kentucky to turn it on, it just took longer than we expected.
Therein lies my issue with the idea that teams on a winning streak in late-February and early-March “need a loss”.
What Kentucky needs to is learn how to win when the pressure is on. They need to learn how to execute and make plays down the stretch on the nights that they’ve spent the majority of the game doing the exact opposite. They need practice “turning it on”.
Just like they did on Tuesday.
As the saying goes, good teams win games when they don’t play well. Kentucky did that — again — on Tuesday.