Kentucky holds off Georgia, 82-70 hold off 'Dawgs in home finale


Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Bobby Perry had a season-high 22 points and a career best four 3-pointers in his final game at Rupp Arena as Kentucky broke out of a slump with an 82-70 victory over Georgia Wednesday night.

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Georgia's Corey Butler, right, gets to a loose ball before Kentucky's Joe Crawford during the second half of their basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday.

The Associated Press

The Wildcats (20-9, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) had lost four of their previous five games, prompting a statement from the school's athletics director this week that heightened speculation about coach Tubby Smith's job security.

Although Kentucky's NCAA tournament resume already appeared relatively secure, a loss would have dropped college basketball's all-time winningest program into fifth place in the six-team SEC East. Instead, the Bulldogs (17-11, 8-7) now occupy that spot while the Wildcats are tied with Tennessee for third.

Kentucky took a 66-48 lead with eight minutes left when Ramel Bradley banked in a 3-pointer, got a rebound and threw a long pass to a breaking Joe Crawford for an easy layup.

Despite the 18-point lead, there was some restlessness up until the end. After all, the Wildcats had led by 17 five weeks ago in Athens, Ga., only to lose to the Bulldogs in overtime.

Georgia cut the lead to 73-65 with just under two minutes left when Terrance Woodbury nailed consecutive 3s and Takais Brown added a fastbreak dunk. Woodbury led the Bulldogs with 18 points.

But Bradley, who also had 18 points, answered with a 3-pointer to help preserve the victory.

Perry joined fellow seniors Lukasz Obrzut and Sheray Thomas in the starting lineup for the Wildcats, but he was the one who stood out. He scored Kentucky's first seven points of the night, then added a 3-pointer just before halftime to give the Wildcats a 34-28 lead at the break.

Kentucky took the lead for good one possession earlier on a three-point play by Derrick Jasper.

The Wildcats made 59 percent of their shots, tied for their second-best performance of the year. However, they did have 17 turnovers, including 10 in a sloppy first half for both sides. Nine minutes into the game, the teams had combined for 12 turnovers compared with only one assist.

Georgia, which already had lost guard Mike Mercer to a knee injury earlier this month, had to play without another one Wednesday. Levi Stukes didn't make the trip to Lexington because of a one-game suspension coach Dennis Felton imposed for what he said was conduct detrimental to the team.

On Monday, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart released a statement urging fans to exercise patience and not judge the program until after the NCAA tournament. Some fans perceived that as an ultimatum for Smith to improve the record soon, but Smith said he viewed it as a sign of support from the administration.

AUBURN 80, LSU 68

Josh Dollard scored 16 points and host Auburn beat LSU to remain in contention for a division title despite the absence of ailing coach Jeff Lebo.

Auburn (17-13, 7-8 Southeastern Conference) became just the second conference team to score more than 72 points against LSU, and remained in the four-team chase for the Western Division title. Lebo missed the game with an illness

LSU (14-14, 4-11) played its third straight game without an injured Glen Davis, who didn't travel with the team.

Korvotney Barber took advantage of his absence, with 14 points and eight rebounds for Auburn. Auburn has won three straight games and is vying for the division title with Alabama, Mississippi State and Mississippi — the Tigers' final regular-season opponent on Saturday.

NO. 19 VANDERBILT 99, SOUTH CAROLINA 90, OT

Shan Foster scored a career-high 33, Derrick Byars added eight of his 18 points in overtime and visiting No. 19 Vanderbilt surrendered a 17-point second-half lead before rallying to beat South Carolina.

Byars, the team's leading scorer, was held to 10 points — six fewer than his average — during regulation. But he made two consecutive 3-pointers to start the extra session and give the Commodores (20-9, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) an 87-82 lead.

The Gamecocks (14-14, 4-11) couldn't get closer than four points the rest of the way.

Vanderbilt looked well on its way to victory when it led 54-37 about a minute into the second half. But South Carolina fought back to lead 77-73 on Tre Kelley's driving basket with 2:08 to go.

The Gamecocks were still ahead 81-79 when Kelley hit two foul shots in the final minute. But Foster put back Dan Cage's missed 3-pointer with 19.6 seconds left to tie things.

ALABAMA 69, MISSISSIPPI 58

Mykal Riley hit a late 3-pointer and freshman Mikhail Torrance scored all eight of his points in the final 5 minutes, helping Alabama pull away.

The Crimson Tide (20-9, 7-8 Southeastern Conference), which never trailed by more than a point, remained in the hunt for the Western Division title after losing four of its previous five games.

The Rebels (18-10, 7-8) closed to within 56-53 on Bam Doyne's jumper with 2:46 to play, but Alabama ended the game on a 13-5 run.

ARKANSAS 67, MISSISSIPPI STATE 58

Gary Ervin scored 20 points against his former team, and freshman Patrick Beverley made some big shots late to help Arkansas to a victory.

Freshman Stefan Welsh added a career-high 16 points for the Razorbacks, whose struggles this season have prompted speculation about coach Stan Heath's job security.

Ervin, playing his first season at Arkansas after transferring from Mississippi State, was held scoreless during an 84-60 loss to the Bulldogs at Starkville, Miss., earlier this season. But he and his teammates played hard in their final regular-season home game.

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