John Clay

Dominique Hawkins was sleepy Cats’ wake-up call against Texas A&M

Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins (25) attempted an outside shot in the first half of the Kentucky at Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, on March 4, 2017.
Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins (25) attempted an outside shot in the first half of the Kentucky at Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, on March 4, 2017. palcala@herald-leader.com

You better believe Dominique Hawkins is paying attention to the clock.

It’s ticking, you know. Counting it down. Hawkins is a senior on the ninth-ranked Kentucky basketball team — meaning this is crunch time, the final few games of his collegiate career. Same for fellow seniors Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder. It’s go time.

So when Hawkins’ teammates failed to answer the opening bell — oh no, not again — Saturday in Reed Arena, the former Madison Central star dubbed “Old Reliable” stepped into the breach, doing every little thing his fellow Wildcats were not doing. Like hustle. And scrap. And defend. And find the open man. And score.

“He was ridiculous,” UK Coach John Calipari said.

Sure, the Cats’ rally from an early 15-point deficit to defeat host Texas A&M 71-63 on Saturday had much to do with De’Aaron Fox scoring 19 points in front of family and friends and Bam Adebayo’s 13 points and eight boards — plus 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots from Willis.

It was Hawkins, however, who saved the Cats’ bacon in the first half, yanking the now undisputed SEC regular season-champs out of their early slumber in an 11 a.m. Central start and into the reality of a 19-4 deficit.

That was when Hawkins buried a three-pointer from the left corner that seemed to finally get the Cats going. His old-fashioned three-point play with 2:41 left in the half put UK in front (for just the second time) 27-26. His 13 first-half minutes produced eight points, three assists and a steal.

“I think tonight Dom kind of came in there and saved us in a sense,” Willis said.

“He was ridiculous in both the energy he showed, his defensive plays, his drives, the three-point play,” Calipari said. “He’s given this team such a lift.”

What’s equally ridiculous are these continuing slow starts, which reached the point where in the postgame news conference Calipari was even quizzing the media about possible solutions. “Come on, you guys are Basketball Bennies,” Calipari said. “What are my options?”

Unlike last Tuesday against Vanderbilt, the Cats did finally get the thing into gear in time to take a 32-28 lead at the break. Fox, who played his high school basketball in Houston, then took over in the second half, scoring 15 points in the final 20 minutes.

“He’s got to be on the floor for them to be their best,” Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said.

Malik Monk was not at his best. The bad news was the Wooden Award finalist continued to struggle on the road, missing eight of 10 shots, including all four of his three-point attempts on the way to a season-low six points, the first game this season he’s failed to reach double digits. The good news is that there are no more road games.

In fact, you can make the case that this week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville will be Rupp Arena South. The NCAA Tournament games are all at neutral venues, you know the kind in which Monk scored 47 points to beat North Carolina in Las Vegas.

“We’re probably one of the few young teams that’s winning,” said Calipari when trying to make the point the postseason is wide open. “Out of 350 schools, we’re 340-something in age. Like we’re the youngest team in the country trying to play. But Dom makes us older, though. Mychal makes us older. Derek makes us older.”

It might be the last college go-around for some young guys, too, guys like Fox and Monk and Adebayo. Meanwhile, the old guys, they know for a fact it is their last go-around.

“That’s how we’re kind of thinking and making the most of it,” Willis said. “We want to advance far. We’ve both been to Final Fours and have a lot of experience in postseason play. We know what it takes to get there and we know what to do.”

One thing they know for sure: There’s no time to waste.

Kentucky men’s basketball 2016-17

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

11/11/16

Stephen F. Austin

87

64

W

1-0

11/13/16

Canisius

93

69

W

2-0

11/15/16

vsMichigan State

69

48

W

3-0

11/20/16

Duquesne

93

59

W

4-0

11/23/16

Cleveland State

101

70

W

5-0

11/25/16

UT-Martin

111

76

W

6-0

11/28/16

vsArizona St

115

69

W

7-0

12/3/16

UCLA

92

97

L

7-1

12/7/16

Valparaiso

87

63

W

8-1

12/11/16

vsHofstra

96

73

W

9-1

12/17/16

vsNorth Carolina

103

100

W

10-1

12/21/16

@Louisville

70

73

L

10-2

12/29/16

@Ole Miss

99

76

W

11-2

1-0

1/3/17

Texas A&M

100

58

W

12-2

2-0

1/7/17

Arkansas

97

71

W

13-2

3-0

1/10/17

@Vanderbilt

87

81

W

14-2

4-0

1/14/17

Auburn

92

72

W

15-2

5-0

1/17/17

@Miss St

88

81

W

16-2

6-0

1/21/17

S Carolina

85

69

W

17-2

7-0

1/24/17

@Tennessee

80

82

L

17-3

7-1

1/28/17

Kansas

73

79

L

17-4

1/31/17

Georgia

90

81

W*

18-4

8-1

2/4/17

@Florida

66

88

L

18-5

8-2

2/7/17

LSU

92

85

W

19-5

9-2

2/11/17

@Alabama

67

58

W

20-5

10-2

2/14/17

Tennessee

83

58

W

21-5

11-2

2/18/17

@Georgia

82

77

W

22-5

12-2

2/21/17

@Missouri

72

62

W

23-5

13-2

2/25/17

Florida

76

66

W

24-5

14-2

2/28/17

Vanderbilt

73

67

W

25-5

15-2

3/4/17

@Texas A&M

71

63

W

26-5

16-2

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