Kentucky Wildcats climb out of early hole, close regular season with win at Texas A&M

Cats rally from double-figure deficit for third consecutive game to win.

Kentucky has seemingly mastered the art of the comeback as the regular season came to a close on Saturday at Texas A&M.

For the third consecutive game, the No. 9 Wildcats found themselves in a large hole to begin the contest before climbing out for a victory. After storming back from deficits of 12 and 19 against Florida and Vanderbilt, this time UK rallied from 15 points down against the Aggies to claim a 71-63 win. 

"We've got to figure this out," UK head coach John Calipari said. "I mean, we're down 15 and then up 12, a swing of 27. If you can play that well, why don't you the entire game?"

The Cats opened the game 2-for-15 from the field. They hit 24 of their last 44.

Freshman guard De'Aaron Fox scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half to lead UK. Freshman center Bam Adebayo followed with 13 points and eight rebounds, while senior forward Derek Willis added 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. 

Kentucky (26-5, 16-2 SEC) won its eighth consecutive game and capped its 48th league title in outright fashion. 

"It's been a heckuva regular season," Calipari said. "We've done what we had to do to win games."

Texas A&M (16-14, 8-10 SEC) played much better than its 100-58 loss on Jan. 3 in Lexington, but will almost certainly need to win the SEC Tournament next weekend in Nashville to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies were led by 22 points from sophomore guard Admon Gilder and a 20-point, 13-rebound effort by freshman forward Robert Williams.

A&M hurt itself deeply with a 12-of-25 day at the free-throw line.

https://twitter.com/KentuckyMBB/status/838113341948243968

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game... 

KEY MOMENT:

Kentucky found itself in a 19-4 hole at the 12:09 mark of the first half before making a strong push to lead 32-28 at the break. Backup guard Dominique Hawkins was a strong stabilizing presence in the first half, scoring all of his eight points and dishing out three assists to help get the Cats back in the game. Briscoe hit a buzzer-beater to send UK into the locker room with momentum, and Fox opened the second half by scoring the Cats' first eight points, including two rare 3-pointers by the noted slasher.  A&M would get no closer than four the rest of the way, and UK led by as much as 14.

GAME BALL:

Dominique Hawkins, Kentucky -- The Cats were in danger of getting blown out early before the trusty veteran started the comeback effort with a steal and runout for a bucket. He followed that up with a 3-pointer and later added an old-fashioned three-point play as UK surged to a halftime lead. Calipari later suggested that it may be time to move the senior guard into the starting lineup in hopes of avoiding slow starts.

BY THE NUMBERS:

1st - Time this season that UK freshman Malik Monk (2-for-10 FG, 6 points) has been held under double figures. 

1st - Time that a UK game in College Station did not go to overtime. All fo the previous three required an extra period. 

6 - Turnovers for UK, its lowest figure since the first Vanderbilt matchup on Jan. 10.

8 - Assists for UK guard Isaiah Briscoe.

25-1 - UK's record when shooting at least 42 percent this season. The Cats were 44 percent versus the Aggies.

39-39 - Teams played to a draw in the rebound column.

QUOTABLE:

"Dom was the reason we were in the game." -- UK head coach John Calipari on Hawkins' performance to help turn the first half around.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action in the SEC Tournament at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. The Cats will play their first game on Friday at 1 p.m. ET.


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