By LARRY VAUGHT
Senior Night start with an unexpected moment when Derek Willis dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Keely Potts, at midcourt during the pregame ceremony that had fans, teammates and even UK coaches cheering.
It was a touching moment that UK fans loved but the mood quickly changed once the game started and UK missed 15 of its first 17 shots. A 14-0 Vanderbilt run pushed the lead to 25-6 and Kentucky looked lifeless.
The Wildcats used their own 13-3 run over a five-minute spurt to get back in the game and managed to get the deficit to 30-24 at halftime. It was UK’s lowest first-half point total of the season even though the Cats did have just 28 in the first half against Florida Saturday.
But the Comeback Cats did it again in the second half and pulled out a 73-67 win thanks to a late 7-0 run and then clutch free throw shooting by Malik Monk. The win keeps UK in first place in the SEC and the Cats can claim the title with a win at Texas A&M Saturday. It was the biggest comeback in the John Calipari era (previously it was the 18-point deficit against Miami in Caliipari’s second game here in 2009). UK also came back from a 19-point deficit against Florida in 1994 under Rick Pitino.
Monk was only 8-for-21 from the field but made nine of 10 free throws to finish with 27 points. Bam Adebayo had 16 points and six rebounds while De’Aaron Fox had 13 points.
Willis made only one shot but it was a 3-pointer with 4:40 to play that gave UK its first lead of the game at 59-57. He did have eight defensive rebounds and three blocked shots along with playing solid defense, especially the final 10 minutes.
After missing 15 of 17 shots to start the game, UK (25-5, 15-2 SEC) hit 15 of 26 the second half and 22 of its final 38 shots in the game. The Cats also went 20-for-26 at the foul line.