Defense is Key in Kentucky’s 71-60 SEC Tournament Win

Coach John Calipari
Coach John Calipari

By Ricky Blair

A Big Blue packed house at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee witnessed the Kentucky Wildcats put down the Georgia Bulldogs for a third time this season.  The 71-60 win was a good start for Kentucky in this 2017 SEC tournament.  The Wildcats had steady play from two of their three-backcourt players.  Both Isaiah Briscoe and DeAron Fox each had 20 points to lead the Cats, while the third member Malik Monk struggled for the second game in a row.  Monk had scored in double figures in 29 straight games, before he failed to reach the double-digit mark in the last two.  Despite Monk’s struggles, the Wildcats still were able to take home the victory.

Senior Derek Willis led the Wildcats with 11 rebounds and made two early threes to give the Wildcats some needed momentum.  Fellow senior Dominique Hawkins had a great game despite going 0-7 from the field.  The Richmond, Kentucky native held Georgia’s All-SEC guard JJ Frazier to only 10 points on 4-17 shooting.   Hawkins was also 5-6 from the free throw line and he made two steals on the day.  Bam Adebayo had a steady performance for the Wildcats.  He had his sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky led 32-25 at the half and then scored the first six points in the second stanza to take a 13-point lead.  From that point on the Wildcats never led by less than 10 points and increased the lead to as many as 18 points in taking the victory.

Despite the double-digit lead, it was a hard fought game.  A lob pass form Malik Monk to Bam Adebayo for a slam started the game off right for the Wildcats.  The Cats used that early momentum to go up by as many as 13 points in the first half.  The Cats held Georgia’s Senior Guard JJ Frazier to zero points for the first 16 minutes of the game, but the small little guard scored six points down the stretch to help cut UK’s lead to seven at the half.  It was the Kentucky’s defense that gave them the lead at the break.  They held Georgia to 30 percent from the field and the Bulldogs were only 1 of 8 from behind the three-point arc.

This was a big win for the Wildcats as they needed to stay on the winning track as they try to secure their NCAA seeding and try to bring home their 30th SEC tournament championship.

The win moves UK to 27-5 on the season.  The Wildcats will take on the winner of the South Carolina- Alabama game in the semi-finals tomorrow at 1:00PM EST.