Senior forward Derrick Willis (35) celebrates after hitting a go-ahead three during the second half of the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Kentucky won the game 73-67. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.
Phillip Hawkins | February 28, 2017
On an emotional senior night and final home game of the season No. 9 UK men’s basketball defeated conference rival Vanderbilt 73-67 at Rupp Arena Tuesday night.
A slow first half forced the Cats have to fight back to stay in the game early on.
Trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half, the Cats had their work cut out for them right from the tip. Coming back from a 19-point deficit was the largest comeback for UK in the John Calipari-era.
Scoring just 24 points in the first half, the Cats couldn’t buy a bucket as they shot a rough 31 percent from the field. Going into halftime, the Cats were led by the freshman duo of Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk. Adebayo had six points to go along with four rebounds, while Monk led the team with seven points.
Things seemed to start clicking in the second half for the Cats as they were able to fight their way back into a game they had been trailing the whole time. Hitting a huge three with 4:47 left in the half on his senior night, Derek Willis would give UK its first lead of the game. After his three the teams would trade baskets, but in the end the Cats were able to hold the Commodores off and get the win.
The Commodores were led by senior forward Luke Kornet, who finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Kornet shot 6-12 from the field and had a big game on the glass as well. After their loss to the Cats, Vanderbilt falls to 16-14 on the season and 9-8 in conference play.
Returning for the Cats after missing their last game against Florida with a knee contusion was freshman guard De’Aaron Fox. Fox played a solid game, finishing with 13 points and three rebounds. He was able to make his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball that the Cats were without against Florida.
Three point shooting was a real problem for the Cats as they shot a rough 29 percent from the arc, shooting 5-for-17 from deep. Despite their struggles from downtown, UK showed a lot of toughness.
Coming off of a huge 33-point game against Florida, Monk was the high-point man again for the Cats.
Monk finished the game with 27 points while making two clutch three-point shots. This was Monk’s 16th game on the year where he has scored over 20 points in a game.
It was another monster game for Bam Adebayo as he dominated both offensively and defensively. Adebayo finished the game with 16 points and six rebounds.
In the past three games Adebayo has been on a tear grabbing huge numbers of rebounds and scoring points in bunches. His dominant play has been something the Cats have needed all year.
After the hard fought, come-from-behind win against the Commodores, UK improved its record to 25-5 on the season and 15-2 in conference play. They remain at the top of the SEC standings with one final game left before the SEC tournament. The Cats will get ready to play on the road at Texas A&M on Saturday to close out their season.