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Fox takes over late, UK holds off Georgia 82-77

DeAaron Fox (Vicky Graff Photo)

By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics

Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe have taken their turns delivering down the stretch for Kentucky.
Saturday was De’Aaron Fox’s turn to show he can take over and get the job done when it matters most.
“I just want people to know I can step up in the big moments,” Fox said. “Like I’ve said before, it’s been different guys stepping up in those moments. Today it was me.”
With Monk struggling to find his range, Briscoe on the bench with five fouls and J.J. Frazier starring for a Georgia team desperate for a quality win, Fox stepped up and made the final five minutes his own. Surviving a back-and-forth battle thanks to Fox’s clutch play, No. 13/11 UK (22-5, 12-2 SEC) took down home-standing Georgia (15-12, 6-8 SEC), 82-77.
“And we go on the road and win a road game in our league,” John Calipari said. “I’m ecstatic. I’d rather learn from a close win than a loss. So I’m going to go watch the tape and we’ll try to fix some stuff.”
Things looked fairly bleak for the Wildcats with a little less than five minutes to go. Pape Diatta had just hit a 3-pointer – just his sixth of the season – to give Georgia a 64-61 lead and Briscoe committed his fifth foul after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Not even Fox was shooting well at that point, so what was his solution? Attack, attack, attack.
First Fox stemmed the tide by drawing a foul and calmly draining two free throws. A minute later, his driving layup gave UK a 67-66 lead to answer another score by Frazier, who scored 36 points to nearly overcome the loss of star Georgia big man Yante Maten to an early-game knee injury.
“I had two points like (35) minutes into the game,” Fox said. “I think we ran something, I got a bucket, and then I realized the plays they were calling they wanted to keep the ball in my hands, so I was like, even though I haven’t been playing well in this game I have to do something. I just made plays in the big moments. I think that’s what people are going to look at with this game.”
Fox saved his best for the final 90 seconds.
After Frazier had given Georgia a 73-71 lead, Fox had another driving layup to tie with 1:12 left, which Frazier again answered. Next up, Fox created three straight foul-shooting opportunities and hit all six free throws. 
“Fox did a great job penetrating,” said Derek Willis, who delivered in his own way with seven points and 12 rebounds. “I mean, he did a lot of things that factored in the game. I think with the ball screens we set for him it was just like an open lane for him. I was open too. He had every option and he played well. He played great.”
So, to recap, Fox scored 14 of his 16 points in the final five minutes. To make that even more impressive, Fox rebounded from back-to-back missed free throws with the Cats down two with 7:15 left to do it.
“I like the fact that De’Aaron missed two free throws and then came back and made eight in a row,” Calipari said.
Calipari talked postgame about missed free throws leading to more missed free throws, so it speaks to Fox’s mental toughness that he was able to recover.
“After that, I stepped up with confidence even when the crowd was getting loud,” Fox said. “That kind of plays into the part where he says I’m so nonchalant and things like that. I’m not listening to the crowd. All that is, is me and the goal and I don’t hear any of that.”

9 comments

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  1. TheProfessor

    This was a 6 point matchup, and ended a 5 point win as expected. Those games tend to play out just as this one did, close most of the way. UK’s largest margin for the night was 6, and Georgia’s largest I think was 5. 13 ties, and 15 lead changes.

    Add an unfriendly whistle to the mix, and an opponent whose players played well above their norms, and it is a recipe for a road loss.

    This team managed to win this game. I can think of many past UK teams that would not have escaped with a win under these circumstances, including some Calipari teams, yet this team found a way to get the job done by getting to the line and making the shots, and crashing the boards to effectively erase several of their missed shots.

    Good job last night by the Cats.

  2. Cats79

    I like the way the team made some hustle plays through out the game. It was a gutsy game by our cats something they haven’t shown much this season. Hopefully it will carry over for the rest of season.

  3. Mike

    We have played Georgia twice now and have had 2 very tough struggles with them both times and did manage to win both games. Is this more a credit to Georgia being that good, or better than their record, or is it more a testimony that we aren’t playing as well as we should, with the talent that we have, at this time of the year? I think it is more the latter. It seems like almost every game someone gets a “career” game against us. We did not start the game last night like we had any clue what we were trying to do. We scored 15 points in the first 10 mins. We were passing the ball a lot and then settling for 3’s. We are not a good 3 pt. shooting team. The season is coming to a close and we still can’t work the ball into the middle for good shots or stop the other team from almost scoring at will inside if we don’t foul them first. What do we work on during the week in practice? Frazier is a heck of a player and took our guards behind the shed last night, but we knew that going in and couldn’t develop a game plan to stop him? Our 3 guards go a collective 11-37 and that isn’t pause for concern? Wenyen has one good fluke, apparently, game and then disappears the rest of the time. Wills had a great game on the boards, and we needed each and everyone of them, but every time he was in post defense, he got scored on. The guy is a senior, seems to have good offensive skills, but he still hasn’t been coached to show some semblance of defense by now. Humphries still hasn’t made the personal decision yet that he wants to come out and play a good game. The 4 position is, and has been, killing us all year and will continue to be the main reason we don’t advance that far in March Madness. There are many more teams out there, right now, that are playing at a higher level than we are for this point in the season.

  4. TheProfessor

    Career games by opposing players is not new or news for the BBN. Bailey Howell, Bob Pettit, Clyde Lee, Pete Maravich, ……………………………….. the list is very long, and will get longer as the seasons continue to add to this litany.

    So what.

  5. Cats79

    Mike, you demand to much from this team. I like the were playing now compare.than two weeks ago there playing with more fire and guts. Have you noticed Cal has let his assistant coaches do all the talking to the players the last couple games. Cal isn’t yelling at his players as much he was in January and I thinks these players are getting to the point.

  6. Persimmon Knob

    Just read Coach Mike’s crap !!!
    How many did UK lose by. More importantly, did the coach get hat ‘phone call ?

    1. Mike

      PK….so where was I in error? That’s what I thought. The Cats are not as good as they should be at this time of year….get used to it.

      1. Persimmon Knob

        Only in your sad, little mind Coach.
        Even if true the sun will rise tomorrow.

  7. Cats79

    Knob, I wonder sometimes Mike is kin to Bill Walton which is one guy I can’t stand.

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