The Cats persevered against an Alabama team that would not go away, and De’Aaron Fox played the role of closer to seal the deal.
Fox scored a game-high 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field to lead Kentucky to its semifinal victory. His 28 points were the most ever by a UK freshman in the SEC tournament and Kentucky needed every single one of them to escape with the win.
This bucket-and-one to extend the lead was especially nice:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 11, 2017
It’s good to know Kentucky has a proven closer going into next week’s NCAA tournament run and his confidence is at an all-time high. He thanked his teammates for the boost, saying after the game, “My teammates are getting confidence in me and it’s just helping me build my own.”
Malik Monk returned to form.
Monk got back into double digits with his 18th 20-point game of the season. Now we can officially blame his two-game funk on the early start times, as he shook this one off by getting up at 7 am and holding his own shoot-around without the team.
Monk was also involved in other areas of the game, which drew some praise from Calipari in the postgame press conference, when Cal called him out for rebounding well.
Slump, over. (Hopefully for good.)
Old Reliable Hawkins did Old Reliable Hawkins things.
Dominique Hawkins did exactly what Dominique Hawkins does: he hustled, defended, protected the ball, defended some more, and threw in seven points to help the cause. He once again proved he can be a huge contributor to this team and his minutes have spiked in recent weeks because of that. With Isaiah Briscoe in foul trouble, Hawkins filled right in as the hardworking glue guy. His game and his leadership are a vital part of this team.
The defense was good when it needed to be.
It wasn’t quite the D we saw in the quarterfinal against Georgia, but the Cats stepped up and got stops in the closing minutes to fight off Alabama’s comeback attempt. The turnaround on that end of the court has been huge and it comes at the perfect time. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Monk wore a new pair of custom Kyrie 3s.
Kentucky turned the ball over a lot, then didn’t.
There were turnovers aplenty in the first half — 10 to be exact — but the ball security improved after halftime and the Cats finished with 13 in the game. Fox and Monk were the most frequent offenders, to which Calipari said, “They had eight turnovers at halftime. Eight. They had none in the second half. That’s why we won the game.”
Bam Adebayo’s stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.
Bam made a lot of plays that didn’t make the box score and he fell one rebound shy of yet another double-double. The big fella is hitting his stride as the lights get brighter and things get serious in the postseason. We knew it would happen eventually, and it has.
Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis took a step back from yesterday.
After playing incredible in Friday’s game, Briscoe and Willis weren’t nearly as productive in this one. They were fine, but neither really had a game that jumps off the page. Foul trouble was a big reason for that in Briscoe’s case. Gabriel took some of Willis’ minutes with his effort and energy on the glass.
One win from the SEC tourney’s championship trophy.
Then after that, six wins from the one we want most.