Georgia-Kentucky Preview

Kentucky will honor its two seniors before the final game at

Rupp Arena this season. Whether several underclassmen, including

freshman standout Anthony Davis, are playing their last game in

Lexington remains to be seen.

Davis and the top-ranked Wildcats will look to win their 21st

straight when they host Georgia on Thursday night.

Having clinched the SEC regular-season title, Kentucky is

setting its sights on securing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA

tournament. The Wildcats (28-1, 14-0), who have been No. 1 in the

AP poll for six straight weeks, haven’t lost since a one-point

defeat at Indiana on Dec. 10.

Davis scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-11 shooting in

Kentucky’s 83-74 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Davis also had 11

rebounds and five blocked shots, helping Kentucky claim its 45th

SEC regular-season championship.

“It’s just another step to the main goal,” sophomore Terrence

Jones said. “It’s just something we have to do to continue to get

better and to improve. We take it, but we’re not happy or satisfied

with it.”

While Thursday will definitely be the final home game for

seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas, the question remains whether

some of the team’s talented underclassmen, including Davis, may be

making their final appearance at Rupp Arena as well.

Of the players on Kentucky’s roster who could leave early,

Davis’ NBA draft stock may not get any higher than right now. The

national player of the year candidate is averaging 17.3 points on

72.6 percent shooting in his last eight games, he’s second in the

SEC with 9.8 rebounds per contest and averages a Division I-best

4.8 blocks.

Fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a potential lottery pick

as well, is expected by many to leave. He’s averaging 12.0 points

and 7.8 rebounds. However, after the win over Vanderbilt, he told

reporters that he planned on staying in Lexington after this

season.

“My thing to all of these guys is worry about being a great

college player,” coach John Calipari said.

“Every one of them whether it’s John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins,

Eric Bledsoe, they all come back and say ‘Man I wish I could have

stayed three or four years.’ … But there are opportunities that

arise.”

While Kentucky’s young talent is leading the team into a

postseason filled with high expectations, it was Miller who lifted

the Wildcats to a 57-44 win over Georgia on Jan. 24, scoring 19

points.

Kidd-Gilchrist was the only other Kentucky player in double

figures with 14 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, as did Davis,

who was held to four points.

The Bulldogs don’t figure to have an easier time against

Kentucky in Lexington, where the Wildcats have won 51 straight

since a loss to Georgia in 2009.

Kentucky is riding its longest overall win streak since a

26-game run Dec. 30, 2002-March 29, 2003.

However, the Wildcats are admittedly a little wary of Georgia

after the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-10) recorded a second win over a Top

25 team with a 76-62 victory over then-No. 12 Florida on

Sunday.

Georgia hit 52.9 percent from the field and snapped a three-game

losing streak during which it combined to shoot 36.9 percent.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points to lead five players in

double figures.

“We came out with a lot of intensity, and our guys were really

determined to play well today,” coach Mark Fox said. “We were able

to dig deep and tap into that extra energy, which we haven’t been

able to do much this season.”

Caldwell-Pope had averaged 8.3 points in the previous three

games while shooting 27.0 percent. He is fourth in the SEC among

freshmen in scoring (13.9 ppg), but was held to seven on 3-of-11

shooting against Kentucky.