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Willis, Hawkins help Cats overcome adversity to beat South Carolina 85-69

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — This was not exactly the scenario Kentucky needed going against South Carolina, the only other team unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play entering Saturday’s game.

Freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox went out early with a right ankle injury. He played just eight minutes and spent the second half on the bench in a walking boot after using crutches to get back on the floor.

Sophomore Isaiah Briscoe played 29 minutes but did not score. He was 0-for-2 from the field. Even worse, he had seven turnovers against four assists and just three rebounds.

Add in South Carolina had scoring runs of 9-0 and 12-0 during the game and one has to wonder how UK still managed to win 85-69.

Kentucky shot 58 percent from the field (the seventh straight game at 50 percent or better), made 21 of 28 free throws and got big games from Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins off the bench. Willis had 12 points and seven rebounds while Hawkins had five points, seven assists and three rebounds.

“I thought Dom played fine. He had seven assists and two turns (turnovers). One came late when nobody could get open. But he plays point every day against De’Aaron Fox, so he did fine,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

“Willis always kills us,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. “He always get us. We tried hard to prepare for those corner 3’s. My big guys didn’t play well today. He made a couple of tough ones. Give that kid credit. He always gets us.”

So did Malik Monk. He had 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 at the foul line. When Kentucky needed a score, he seemed to get it.

“We didn’t do a very good job on Monk,” Martin said. “That is five over his average. One thing about us is that we have been pretty good taking leading scorers and holding them down. We were real bad on him.”

Bam Adebayo had 18 points and three rebounds in 29 minutes. He was 5-for-6 from the field and is now 14 of 17 the last four games.

“We tried to get Bam in early foul trouble but he went at us and we did not go at him,” Martin said. “They are a high powered offensive team. They came at us. We didn’t do a very good job defending the basketball early in the game. By the time the game settled down we were down 17 or 18. We regrouped, but at the end some guys just got tired.”

Martin knew Fox going out hurt UK and impacted what Briscoe, who had six of his turnovers in the first half, did. He said Briscoe having to play more point guard changed the way he played.

“But Monk got a lot of shots off his play,” Martin said. “It still seems to me that he (Briscoe) is kind of the backbone of that basketball team. He is the one that makes everything go. I think he did that for them. When we made that push, he kind of gathered them back together.”

Calipari liked the way that Willis and Gabriel combined for 23 points and 12 rebounds. “They played well,” Calipari said.

8 comments

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  1. Mike

    With two very shaky starts by Briscoe, he might be locking himself into a third year at UK and that could be a good thing. Nice to see Willis have a good game and the thunder dunk showed us what we should be seeing on a more consistent basis. The talent is definitely there but the mindset not very consistent. Bam still needs to be shooting more than 5-6 times a game and his 29 mins. and only 3 boards needs to improve very underwhelming. My only remaining attraction to Ashley Judd is purely physical, and she totally embarrassed herself and the BBN with her political views and rants she spewed today. Maybe she can go on tour with Madonna.

    1. Larry Pup

      Amen Mike on your Ashley Judd comment, sad to see.

  2. Grant

    Guys, has the “sprint offense” my terminology taken Briscoe out of his comfort zone. I listened to the gal commentator sort of allude when Fox went out that UK could be disorganized. Well to a degree she was right. But my first reaction was , UK will be alright Briscoe is there. It did seem like he was a bit lost. Or disjointed. But I was completely expecting Briscoe to drive more. I personally don’t get a warm fuzzy if fox was to go out in the tournament with foul trouble. Or for whatever. And one more comment, Cal is yelling so much it’s unreal. I hear him on tv like crazy. Does this team have to be that micromanaged?

    1. Larry Pup

      Cal has a lot of show boat in him.

  3. Grant

    Well just read comments by Judd. And I am going to be objective here. But I’d have to say how quickly factions forget about Hillary’s husband.

    1. TheProfessor

      Forgetting means once having cognitive knowledge, now missing. In this instance, these people never ever acknowledged that Bill Clinton had behaved in an inappropriate manner. This is all politics, not but politics, and the brand of politics that the people finally rose up and rejected in November.

      1. Larry Pup

        Amen Professor!!!

  4. TheProfessor

    Now on a more serious note, I am unable to find any reports or updates regarding Fox’s ankle injury. Larry V, have you gained any information on his status that you can report?

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