USA Today/Christopher Hanewinckel

Kentucky Wildcats roll past Arkansas Razorbacks in SEC championship game

Cats cruise past Hogs 82-65 for third straight SEC Tournament championship.

Kentucky is running on all cylinders with the NCAA Tournament looming.

The No. 8 Wildcats easily dispatched Arkansas 82-65 on Sunday in the SEC Tournament championship game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and will carry an 11-game win streak into the "big dance." 

"We're continuing to grow and figure each other out," UK head coach John Calipari said. "A lot of it is just inter-team, guys just accepting who they are for this time, sacrificing and being locked into a gameplan."

Indeed, it was a well-rounded team effort for Kentucky (29-5) which won its 30th SEC tourney championship and third consecutive title.

Freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox scored a game-high 18 points to lead UK past the Razorbacks and claim tourney MVP honors after scoring 66 points over three games this weekend. He was joined in double figures by Bam Adebayo (17), Malik Monk (17) and surprise all-tourney member Dominique Hawkins, a senior guard who gave the Cats a spark with a career-high 14 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists.

"Dom Hawkins, when you have a senior who plays like he plays -- fearless, defensive-minded, high-energy, great teammate, servant leader, sacrifice guy... it's been a lot of fun," Calipari said. 

After a closely contested first 16 minutes of play, Kentucky pulled away to a 42-30 halftime lead after its three seniors -- Hawkins, Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder -- each hit 3-pointers to close the half on a 9-0 run.

The Cats led by as much as 19 (68-49) with just over five minutes remaining. Tempers flared down the stretch as Arkansas was called for two flagrant fouls, the second leading to the ejection of center Moses Kingsley. 

Kentucky held Arkansas to 41.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 14 turnovers leading to 22 points for the Cats. 

The Razorbacks, who will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 25-9 record, did not have the strong perimeter shooting day needed to pull the upset, making only four of their 18 shots from beyond the arc.  

Daryl Macon led Arkansas with 18 points on a 7-for-11 shooting performance. His teammates combined to go 16 of 44.

https://twitter.com/SECNetwork/status/840980721808338945

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

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky got a well-rounded performance that did not rely on one monster game from any of its stars. Four players scored in double figures while others, like Willis, chipped in with nine rebounds. Defensively, UK appears to be peaking at the right time. The parade of easy buckets we saw midway through the season have been replaced by stretches like the one the Cats delivered Sunday, holding Arkansas without a bucket for more than eight minutes during the key second-half stretch. 

GAME BALL:

De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky -- His MVP weekend was capped by another strong showing in the title game. The Houston native went 6-for-10 from the field, 5-of-7 at the line, dished out two assists and had only two turnovers against the Razorbacks' aggressive defense. When Arkansas made a mini-run late to pull within nine, Fox once again steadied the wheel by scoring seven of the Cats' final 11 points to quell any thoughts of a miracle finish for the Hogs. 

BY THE NUMBERS:

11 - UK's longest winning streak of the season.

18 - Wildcats have been named SEC Tournament MVP since the event was renewed in 1979 as Fox added his name to the list.

19-0 - UK record when the opponent scores under 72 points this season.

29-11 - The Cats' all-time record against Arkansas, including five Ws in a row.

130-25 - UK's all-time record in the SEC Tournament.

QUOTABLE:

"It's such a blessing. To be on the all-tournament team, words can't even describe it." -- UK senior guard Dominique Hawkins.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky, seeded No. 2 in the South Region, will face Northern Kentucky on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET in Indianapolis.


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