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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Throughout its 34-game home win streak, No. 8 Kentucky has made its living turning defense into offense with turnovers and transition baskets.
Georgia stopped the Wildcats from doing just that Sunday, and the No. 13 Lady Bulldogs won at Memorial Coliseum 75-71.
The Wildcats (19-3, 7-2) had not lost a home game since dropping a 73-67 decision to Tennessee on Feb. 7, 2011. The streak also included 15 straight SEC wins at home.
"When you draw back and look at it over the total period of the win streak, it was a lot of good play by a lot of good players," Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said.
Georgia (19-3, 7-2) held a 74-71 lead after guard Jasmine James hit one of two free throws with 1:12 left, and the score stayed unchanged until the Wildcats held the ball with about 20 seconds to go with an inbound pass under their own basket.
A'dia Mathies and Jennifer O'Neill tried to find an opening for a quick 3. Mathies said the plan was to try to create a shot, or drive and dish out to either O'Neill or DeNesha Stallworth.
Georgia's defense allowed nothing, and with about five seconds to go Shacobia Barbee stripped the ball from O'Neill at the top of the key. The Lady Bulldogs cleared the ball out, and Kentucky couldn't recover to foul until 0.4 seconds remained.
Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller finished with a career-high 25 points. She was in a bit of an unusual role: James' three first-half fouls forced Miller to run the point, a move coach Andy Landers worked in practice leading up to Sunday's game.
Though Miller was eager to help out at the point at some point in the future, she didn't think it would happen Sunday.
"Oh, Lord," she said was her reaction to the move.
"Since high school, I really haven't played that position," Miller said. "I always kind of looked at (James) as the one to control the floor. Well, I've just been working it, and tonight was the night I had to step up and play the position."
It took a couple of halftime tweaks to overcome a 40-30 halftime deficit, Landers said. One of those tweaks was to eliminate turnovers. Georgia had 17 turnovers in the first half — it had already topped its average of 14.3 turnovers per game — and finished with 26, tied for its worst total this season.
The other tweak was to realign the Lady Bulldogs' defense to disrupt O'Neill. She finished with 18 points, but she only had four in the second half.
"She had stepped back and knocked down a couple of threes," Landers said. "Really, we made the decision with about two minutes left in the first half, but we had such a mixed lineup out there and no real good time to discuss it with the kids, dead ball-wise or timeout-wise, so we just sat on it until halftime."
In the second half, Kentucky coach Mitchell said he was pleased with how his team got behind Georgia's defense and to the basket. Instead, not being able to finish at the rim was the problem. The Lady Bulldogs then turned defensive rebounds into transition opportunities, another area in which Kentucky's defense is known to excel but was beaten in Sunday.
"Usually we're a good defensive team, and today they were a better offensive team than we were a defensive team," Mitchell said. "I don't want to say that we played poor defensively, I'm sure we'll look at the film and figure it out. But you had some players on Georgia that did some things today that they haven't done. They made some great plays and made real critical baskets when they needed to."