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Updated: Saturday, February 12, 2005 6:35 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(5) Kentucky 60, Georgia 51

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Chuck Hayes and Kentucky did just enough to remain unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play.

Hayes scored 14 points and registered a key block as the fifth-ranked Wildcats nearly blew a huge lead before defeating struggling Georgia, 60-51.

Patrick Sparks added 14 points for the Wildcats (19-2, 10-0 SEC East), who have won nine straight games since a 65-59 loss to No. 2 Kansas on January 9.

Kentucky has won 19 consecutive conference games, including the 2004 SEC Tournament, and 11 straight league games at home.

"We got a win, but I thought we could have played better, especially after coming off a tough win against Florida (on Wednesday)," Sparks said. "We have to forget about the past and learn from our mistakes so we can get ready for South Carolina (on Tuesday)."

The Wildcats opened the second half on an 11-1 run, opening a 40-21 advantage on a layup by Sparks just under five minutes in. Kentucky held a 46-25 lead after a 3-pointer by Sparks with 12 minutes left before Georgia stormed back, pulling within 55-50 on a layup by Dave Bliss with just over two minutes to play.

The lead was 57-51 when Hayes blocked a shot by Sundiata Gaines with 32 seconds left, leading to a pair of free throws by Kelenna Azubuike with 26 seconds remaining that all but sealed it.

"It's disappointing and a little frustrating to come up short, but I was certainly proud of the way our team handled the deficit in the second half, and to come back and give ourselves a real chance to win the game," Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton said.

"We regressed a lot today," Wildcats coach Tubby Smith said. "I hope we learn something from it, that we're just ordinary if we don't come with the right attitude and the right energy. Then we're just an ordinary group of players."

Kentucky shot just 39 percent (10-of-26) in the first half but took a 29-20 lead into the break thanks to 12 points from Hayes and stingy defense, holding Georgia to just 29 percent (7-of-24) from the field.

Both teams made 11-of-22 shots in the second half and 5-of-17 3-pointers overall.

Gaines had 13 points and 11 rebounds to pace Georgia (7-14, 1-10), which held an early 9-3 lead before allowing Kentucky to embark on a 21-2 run and seize control.

"We definitely were believers near the end of the game," Bliss said. "We made Kentucky fight for the win and we were able to come back. We just couldn't come up with it in the end."

Kentucky improved to 52-4 all time at home against Georgia, which had won two of the last three at Rupp Arena.

Both teams registered just nine assists but Georgia committed 18 turnovers, which Kentucky converted into 22 points. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off 13 Wildcats giveaways.

"They read the paper, they read how poor Georgia is and how great we are after beating Florida," Smith said of his players. "That's what I mean by being immature. You can't get past it. All of a sudden, they have them in the NBA doing all this stuff, but you have to learn to play here first. You have to be grown up here and be men here first."

"The game wasn't much fun," Hayes said. "Coach always says we have to play the right way. We didn't, and that's why the win doesn't feel good. The atmosphere after the game made it feel like we lost."


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