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Kentucky Basketball: 4 things to know from Wildcats downing Georgia Bulldogs

The Cats started strong and notched their first postseason win.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Kentucky vs Georgia Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia pushed Kentucky to the brink in both of their regular-season meetings, but the Cats made sure this one did not.

Thanks to big games by Isaiah Briscoe (20 points & 6 boards) and De’Aaron Fox (20 points & 4 assists), Kentucky controlled the game throughout and scored a 71-60 win, which advances them into Saturday’s semifinal round.

Here are four things to know from the win:

SEC Champs

Prior to tipoff of this game, the Cats were awarded with their SEC regular-season championship.

Winning three games during the SEC Tournament would be nice, but it never amounts to the amount of work and accomplishment that comes with winning the league’s 18-game title, which Kentucky once again did this year.

It’s even more special in years like this when there’s a very formidable challenger like Florida, who pushed Kentucky until the final day of regular-season play before the Cats claimed the title.

It also makes you have more appreciation for all the close wins Kentucky has gutted out this year, whether is was the thrillers with Vandy, the wars with Georgia, or the epic second-half game by Malik Monk to beat Florida.

Getting to see the Cats hold a trophy for all that makes those wins even more special. Let’s hope that now translates to a memorable postseason.

No slow start

Kentucky FINALLY got out of their slump of slow starts to games, jumping out to a quick 10-2 lead over Georgia thanks to great patience and effort at both ends. That helped lead to 1-of-8 shooting with three turnovers for the Dawgs through the first six minutes, which also helped Kentucky get some easy transition chances.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have Bam doing this:

There were some occasional dry spells, but nothing to the degree of the 25-6 or 16-2 starts they’ve had in the past two games. Strong defense and more consistent offense kept Kentucky ahead by double-digits most of this game.

Willis has 4 on lockdown

Derek Willis has finally locked down the starting 4 spot. After Wenyen Gabriel started there for most of the season, Willis has now started that last three games there after first getting that nod on Senior Night.

Kentucky entered this game at 5-0 with that lineup, and Willis has done enough to finish the season with that spot, even if Gabriel still deserves significant minutes. But if Willis can keep knocking down shots and defending well, he’ll keep getting the bulk of he minutes there.

The senior has really made a world of difference with his play lately, especially on the defensive end. That’s why Gabriel is playing less and less each game. He had just three minutes in the first half.

What was the tweak?

John Calipari said he was tweaking some things for this game, though it was hard to find anything too different in this game.

One unique thing Kentucky did was automatic double-teams on Yante Maten almost every time he touched the ball, which lead to a lot of scrambled possessions that ended poorly.

Kentucky also made it a point to pressure Georgia and play tight man-to-man defense, enough that they were forcing the Dawgs beyond the stripe and preventing them from getting many pick-and-roll chances, which is where many teams have bludgeoned Kentucky.

One thing that wasn’t tweaked was the rotation. Within the first eight minutes, we saw Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder, and Wenyen Gabriel all get minutes. Calipari has typically shortened his rotation come postseason play, but that wasn’t the case this game.

What were your biggest takeaways from the game?