Slow start or not, Kentucky played some good basketball for most of today’s 71-63 win over the Texas A&M Aggies.
Kentucky seems to like to put itself behind the eight ball, which they did again today by letting A&M take a commanding lead early, but it didn’t last long. Thanks to some great play seniors Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, as well as great scoring from De’Aaron Fox, the Cats escaped College Station with a win.
With the win, Kentucky avoided sharing the SEC regular-season title with Florida, who could have won a share of it with a win over Vanderbilt and a loss by the Cats. As it turned out, Kentucky won and Florida lost to the Dores, giving the Cats the SEC crown all for themselves.
Here are four things to know.
Derek Willis started over Wenyen Gabriel
There was good reason for John Calipari to give Willis the nod over Gabriel. Not only was Willis outstanding against Vanderbilt on Senior Night, but Gabriel has been way off as of late.
Where art thou Wenyen? 11 points over his last 5 games... pic.twitter.com/COq9Troau9— Jason Marcum (@marcum89) March 1, 2017
Willis played well (11 points, six rebounds and another three blocks) and Gabriel didn’t (two points, 0-2 from the field, six rebounds and an air balled free throw), so it looks as though Willis will hold the four spot in the SEC tournament.
Derek Willis will shoot you out of that zone. pic.twitter.com/mWjJUdS547— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) March 4, 2017
Kentucky got off to a slow start...again
This is a habit that they have to break, because if they don’t they’ll find themselves down 35 in the first half of a tournament game, and they won’t come back. The Cats scored two points in the first seven minutes of the game, and found themselves down double-digits almost from the opening tip. A major turnaround allowed Kentucky to take their first lead of the game with three minutes left, 24-23. They led 32-28 at halftime following a buzzer-beater by Isaiah Briscoe to end the half.
Isaiah Briscoe high off the glass to beat the buzzer. pic.twitter.com/Qtu3h0ZmhR— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) March 4, 2017
Thankfully, they played well for the final 30 minutes and pulled out the win.
There was no second half surge for Malik Monk
After seeing Monk go off for 50 points in the last two second halves, no one was worried when Malik Monk went into halftime with two points. You would’ve expected him to go off in the second half, and finish the game with 40 points. Instead, he finished with six points. He shot just 2-10 from the field and 0-4 from three-point range. It was the first time he’s failed to score 10 points in a game. Thankfully, Fox helped out in his absence with 19 points, aided by two three-pointers.
At least Monk did this though.
Malik Monk rocks the rim off the steal. pic.twitter.com/yJFamu5KiA— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) March 4, 2017
Kentucky is now the outright SEC champion
The Cats needed to beat Texas A&M to secure their outright regular season SEC championship this year, and unlike last year, they finished the job. So now they’ll have the No. 1 seed and their 48th regular season title under their belt as they head into SEC tourney play, which is hopefully the sign of a run through the tournament that ends in an SEC tournament title as well.