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March 1, 2012

Shooters sizzle in UK's Senior Night win

The shot was there for Kyle Wiltjer.

The hot-shooting Kentucky freshman was open on the left wing Thursday night. He had a three-pointer in his sights. But there was Doron Lamb in the corner with an even cleaner look.

Wiltjer dished. Lamb swished.

It was a play emblematic of No. 1 Kentucky's 79-49 rout of Georgia Thursday at Rupp Arena. The pass was unselfish. The three-point shot was true. It was that kind of night for the Wildcats (29-1, 15-0 Southeastern Conference).

"It just shows our unselfishness," said Wiltjer, who hit three of UK's season-high 15 three-pointers. "When we're passing the ball like that, it just makes it so hard to defend us, especially when we have me, Darius (Miller) and even Doron out there shooting the ball. No one really knows who to guard."

Georgia (13-16, 4-11) had trouble guarding anyone on the perimeter.

The Wildcats went without a fast break point for the second time this season and scored a season-low 16 points in the paint. But UK offset those statistics by making 15-of-27 three-pointers, including a stretch of seven straight in the second half. Those came over eight possessions in a span of 4:12.

"They're a hard team to guard, because they can score all over the place," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "So there's something you have to give up, and we gave them looks at the three. And they took advantage of it."

Nobody took more advantage than Miller. The senior from Maysville, Ky., led UK with 17 points and hit 5-of-9 three-pointers. Wiltjer and Lamb each hit three three-pointers. Marquis Teague made two, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis hit one each. Davis' was his first of the season.

"We'll beat you by a bunch when we shoot it like that, and that's what happened today," UK coach John Calipari said.

Kentucky entered the game averaging 5.6 made three-pointers per game overall and 5.3 per game in conference play. The Cats nearly tripled that output in a game in which they led by as many as 41 points.

When UK beat Georgia 57-44 on Jan. 24 in Athens, Ga., the Wildcats struggled at times against the Bulldogs' zone. There were no such struggles on Thursday. Kentucky found open shots against the zone and buried them.

"It just shows how, if you work at something, you can get better," Wiltjer said. "We struggled a little early in the season with the zone, and we've put in a lot of work and it just shows our execution and ability to listen to coach."

It helped that shots were falling.

In an eight-possession second-half stretch that started at the 13:52 mark of the second half and ended with 9:40 to play, the Cats made three-pointers on six straight possessions, got two free throws from Lamb on the seventh and made another three on the eighth.

"That's unbelievable for a team to do that," Lamb said. "We was just all hot. Every player was on fire today."

It was a rare night - Lamb said he'd never been a part of that sort of collective shooting effort - but if the Cats can repeat the feat, Lamb said, any opponent will suffer the fate Georgia did.

"We're unbeatable, really, if we're all shooting and making shots like that," Lamb said.

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