After another concerning slow start that where the Wildcats found themselves down 19-4 at one point, Kentucky closed out its season with a 71-63 victory over Texas A&M Saturday in College Station. It was the eighth straight win for Coach Calipari and the Cats, but the Cats have failed to get on the scoreboard first in their last six outings, leaving the Big Blue Nation somewhat perplexed.
Specifically in its last three games, Kentucky has trailed by significant margins early on: down 18-6 at one point against Florida, 25-6 versus Vanderbilt, and 19-4 against the Aggies. So what gives?
“Only a few things you can do now,” Calipari told the Herald-Leader, putting an emphasis on that last word. “It keeps happening.”
One question Calipari then posed as a solution in his post-Texas A&M press conference: “How about you get to start different people?” he said. But he didn’t offer any more specifics.
The most important takeaway for fans should be that the Cats keep getting wins, despite whatever adversity has come their way in the last few games. All we can do is hope that Calipari and his staff can help these young guys work through the kinks, and hope that veteran leaders like Dominique Hawkins continue to step up.
Here’s a look at what they’re saying:
De'Aaron Fox leads everyone with 19 points as UK finishes SEC at 16-2. They beat Texas A&M 71-63. Malik Monk had only 6 points.— alan cutler (@cutler18) March 4, 2017
Hard to complain too much win you win the outright conference title and finish a long season with only five losses.
Think it was good sign for UK to win when Monk scored 6 points. Think it was good sign Monk did other things (5 rebs, 3 assists) w/ shot off— Mark Story (@markcstory) March 4, 2017
I’ve seen several media types and fans alike make the argument that this Kentucky team will go as far as Malik Monk will take it. It was obviously good to see them get a victory when he was off, but can the Cats do it without Monk against a higher quality team?
Cats hit 24 of 44 FG after 2-for-15 start.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) March 4, 2017
A 2-for-15 start is inexcusable in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky today won their 48th SEC Conference title...next closest is LSU with 10— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 4, 2017
Malik Monk scores season-low 6 points. First time this season he hasn't reached double-figures. Only the third time he's failed to hit a 3.— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) March 4, 2017
The craziest stat in this tweet is that Monk had reached double figures in 30 straight games. Wow.
Kentucky will go into the post-season winners of 8 straight games.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) March 4, 2017
This is probably what fans need to focus on, although the slow starts are hard to ignore.
Hawkins didn't score in second half but changed the game in first.— John Clay (@johnclayiv) March 4, 2017
As I said, the veteran guys have to continue to step up for this team to do big things.
Fox: Somehow we've picked up the intensity as the game has gone on and actually took the lead by halftime.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2017
Somehow they need to get that intensity for 40 straight minutes.
Coach Cal says the good news is that UK hasn't peaked, and the bad news is that UK hasn't peaked.— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) March 4, 2017
It’s not bad news that UK hasn’t peaked. They just need to start showing signs in the SEC Tournament this week.
Cal on Dominique Hawkins keeping the Cats afloat early: "He was ridiculous. ... He's given this team such a lift."— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 4, 2017
Calipari suggests on postgame show that Hawkins may need to move into starting lineup, that it was suggested by the other guards today.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) March 4, 2017
Could Hawkins provide the early spark that the Wildcats desperately need? It’s worth a shot.
Kentucky has now won 600 conference games as an AP Top-10 team. pic.twitter.com/k128JahzWb— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 4, 2017
Sure, Kentucky hasn’t had quite as much competition in the SEC as the other three team on this list. But the Cats lead this stat by a lot.
Kennedy on UK responding to A&M's 19-4 early lead: "You've got to give Kentucky credit. They never broke."— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) March 4, 2017
And they haven’t broken in the last few games. Let’s hope they can keep that going.
Cal on Monk: "Malik was awful today. That was probably the worst he's played. He just wasn't engaged in the game."— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) March 4, 2017
I like that Calipari will tell it like it is. Not many coaches are going to say that their star player was “awful” on any given day.
Honestly, no idea what to make of this Kentucky team. They keep winning but I'm not sure they can keep winning like *this*.— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) March 4, 2017
That’s pretty much the BBN mindset at this point.
No more bubble for SEC. All set. Five will get in: Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Vanderbilt.... https://t.co/jR2OSOxhFw— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 4, 2017
Vanderbilt got a big win over Florida Saturday and most analysts now have the Commodores making it to the Big Dance. I think it’s a serious possibility we could see Vandy in the SEC Championship. Bryce Drew has the ‘Doores rolling.
Kentucky will meet the winner of Tennessee and Georgia on Friday at noon in Nashville. Georgia has given Kentucky all it could handle in two regular season games this season, and Tennessee was one of the only two SEC foes to notch a win over the Cats in 2017. The beauty of the SEC Tournament is that blue always gets in, especially in Nashville.
Monk juuuuust edged out South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell for the scoring title.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 5, 2017
Monk - 21.161
Thornwell - 21.160
It was that close. ⚪
Monk is the first Wildcat to win the league's scoring title since Jodie Meeks in 2009.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 5, 2017
Monk is one special player. Let’s pray he catches fire in the coming weeks.
I’m rooting for Tennessee on Thursday. Looking past Kentucky’s Friday match-up, the Cats will likely meet either South Carolina or Alabama should they advance to the semifinals. Alabama lost three of its last four, and South Carolina four of its last six. It helps that Kentucky hasn’t had to play the Gamecocks or the Crimson Tide more than once this year, as it’s tough to beat any conference team three times in the same season.
I’ll be in Nashville on Thursday night and looking forward to taking in the incredible “catmosphere” in Nashville for SEC Tournament weekend. Go Big Blue.