John Clay

Kentucky basketball: Dark clouds, silver linings in stretch run

Dominique Hawkins on a special Senior Night

Kentucky senior guard Dominique Hawkins talks about the win over Vanderbilt, Derek Willis proposing to his girlfriend and what Senior Night meant to him.
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Kentucky senior guard Dominique Hawkins talks about the win over Vanderbilt, Derek Willis proposing to his girlfriend and what Senior Night meant to him.

With one regular-season game remaining, Saturday at Texas A&M, here are dark clouds and silver linings from Kentucky basketball’s stretch run:

Dark cloud: Last Saturday, Kentucky was slow out of the gate against Florida, falling behind 18-6 at the 13:09 mark of the first half.

Silver lining: Kentucky rallied to win 76-66.

Dark cloud: Tuesday night, Kentucky was slow out of the gate against Vanderbilt, falling behind 25-6 with 8:02 left in the first half.

Silver lining: Kentucky rallied to win 73-67.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari talks about his team coming back from 19 down to beat Vanderbilt 73-67.

Dark cloud: In the first half of the last two games, Malik Monk has scored a combined 10 points — three against Florida; seven against Vanderbilt.

Silver lining: In the second half of the last two games, Monk has scored a combined 50 points — 30 against Florida; 20 against Vanderbilt.

Dark cloud: Kentucky shot 28.6 percent the first half against the Gators; 31 percent the first half against the Commodores.

Silver lining: Kentucky shot 64 percent the second half against the Gators; 57.7 percent the second half against the Commodores.

Dark cloud: Kentucky has not shot 50 percent in any of the 11 games since connecting on 58.3 percent of its shots in an 85-69 win over visiting South Carolina on Jan. 21.

Silver lining: Kentucky is 8-3 in those 11 games.

Dark cloud: On what turned out to be his Engagement Night, senior Derek Willis made just one field goal against Vanderbilt — though it was a big one, putting UK ahead for the first time in the game, 59-57 with 4:46 remaining.

Silver lining: Willis didn’t let his shooting affect the rest of the game, as proven by his eight rebounds.

Kentucky senior Derek Willis proposed to his longtime girlfriend Keely Potts, a fellow UK senior, before the 2016-2017 regular season game in Rupp Arena.

Dark cloud: In its 20-point loss at Florida on Feb. 4, Kentucky was destroyed on the glass, 54-29.

Silver lining: Kentucky has not been outrebounded since. Seven straight games the Cats have won the glass, including by 18 in the rematch with the Gators.

Dark cloud: Isaiah Briscoe hasn’t scored in double figures in the last four games and committed six turnovers in 23 minutes at Missouri. Plus, he injured his left thumb against Vanderbilt.

Silver lining: Briscoe played 31 minutes without committing a turnover against Vanderbilt, many of those minutes with tape around that injured thumb.

Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe talks about his play and his injured thumb after the win over Vanderbilt.

Dark cloud: De’Aaron Fox committed five turnovers in 26 minutes on Tuesday night.

Silver lining: It was Fox’s first game back since missing the Florida game with a bruised knee. And it was the point guard’s jumper with 2:13 left that put UK ahead for good 64-62.

Dark cloud: John Calipari has not been able to develop a reliable backup center. Isaac Humphries hasn’t played double-digit minutes since the Georgia game at Rupp Arena on Jan. 31. Tai Wynyard hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 7. Sacha Killeya-Jones hasn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 21.

Silver lining: Starting center Bam Adebayo is easily playing his best basketball of the season. The freshman had consecutive double-doubles against Missouri (22 points, 15 rebounds) and Florida (18 points, 15 rebounds), then made eight of 10 free throws against Vanderbilt. He’s also committed just 11 fouls in his last five games.

Dark cloud: A constant worry about this Kentucky team is whether it is in fact good enough on defense to compete for a national championship.

Silver lining: The Cats have held five of their last six opponents to under 1.0 points per possession (that’s good), and as of Wednesday morning were ranked 11th by kenpom.com in defensive efficiency. Each of the last seven national champions ranked 15th or better in that category.

Dark cloud: As March arrives, surely the Cats can’t continue to play with fire (these slow starts) and not eventually get burned.

Silver lining: In the words of Isaiah Briscoe, “We’re learning how to win.”

Vanderbilt forward Luke Kornet said Kentucky's pressure defense rushed the Commodores in UK's 73-67 win. The son of former Lexington Catholic star Frank Kornet, Luke led Vandy with 21 points.

Kentucky field goal percentages in SEC games

Date

Opponent

UK-FG

UK-FGA

UK-Pct

Opp-FG

Opp-FGA

Opp-Pct

Dec. 29

at Ole Miss

37

74

0.500

27

72

0.375

Jan. 3

Texas A&M

33

63

0.524

21

47

0.447

Jan. 7

Arkansas

32

61

0.525

25

62

0.403

Jan. 10

at Vanderbilt

34

67

0.507

25

58

0.431

Jan. 14

Auburn

32

56

0.571

29

62

0.468

Jan. 17

at Miss. St.

33

65

0.508

32

59

0.542

Jan. 21

South Carolina

28

48

0.583

24

58

0.414

Jan. 24

at Tennessee

25

60

0.417

30

64

0.469

Jan. 31

Georgia

27

64

0.422

30

61

0.492

Feb. 4

at Florida

23

61

0.377

30

62

0.484

Feb. 7

LSU

31

63

0.492

32

64

0.500

Feb. 11

at Alabama

27

62

0.435

23

51

0.451

Feb. 14

Tennessee

32

69

0.464

18

52

0.346

Feb. 17

at Georgia

26

61

0.426

28

55

0.509

Feb. 21

at Missouri

24

52

0.462

22

60

0.367

Feb. 25

Florida

24

53

0.453

26

71

0.366

Feb. 28

Vanderbilt

24

55

0.436

22

49

0.449

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