NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox scored 18 points, and No. 8 Kentucky won its third straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship by beating Arkansas 82-65 on Sunday.
The Wildcats (29-5) added their 30th tournament title all-time to their 48 regular season championships in convincing fashion.
The Razorbacks couldn’t string together points the way they usually do, not with Kentucky answering every big bucket with its own run. The big spurt came as Kentucky scored 13 straight points to end the first half and into the opening minute of the second that turned a three-point lead to a 46-30 edge.
Arkansas (25-9) fell to 1-6 in this championship, having lost to Kentucky for the second time in three years.
The game got very chippy inside the final couple minutes after Arkansas hit six straight shots, the last a 3-pointer by Jaylen Barford, to pull within nine for the only time in the second half.
Dusty Hannahs was given a flagrant foul for knocking Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins to the court with his forearms, then Moses Kingsley went to the locker room with 1:02 left for his physical foul of Fox in the paint.
Kentucky finished by outscoring Arkansas 9-1, the final points a 3 by Fox.
Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo each finished with 17 points, and Hawkins added 14 for Kentucky.
Daryl Macon led the Razorbacks with 18 points, Hannahs had 14 and Barford 13.
Kentucky started much quicker than the Wildcats have in recent games, never trailing by more than two in a fast-paced first half that featured four ties and six lead changes. Arkansas last led at 18-17 midway through the half before Monk scored to put Kentucky ahead for good.
When Macon hit a 3-pointer with 3:33 left to pull Arkansas within 33-30, the Wildcats took over.
Derek Willis hit Kentucky’s first 3-pointer after the Wildcats missed their first four, Hawkins followed with another and Mychal Mulder beat the buzzer with a 3 for a 42-30 halftime lead.
Adebayo started the second half with two free throws and a layup to push Kentucky’s lead to 16 points. The Wildcats pushed that to as much as 19 to finish off another title.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks came in having won eight of their last nine looking for their first tournament title since 2000. A win would have guaranteed Arkansas finishing the season with single-digit losses for only the second time in 19 years no matter what happens in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they went home with another loss in this title game.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have tuned up their game at the right time of the season. This was their 11th straight win. The difference Sunday was unlike four of the past five games, they didn’t fall behind by double digits. The Wildcats never trailed by more than two and answered each Arkansas run with a big basket or turnover.
Arkansas: NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky: NCAA Tournament.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox took charge and made plays during a critical stretch on the way to a career performance. An early-morning shootaround helped remedy Malik Monk’s recent scoring woes.
Those initiatives by Kentucky’s talented freshmen duo positioned the No. 8 Wildcats to claim another Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.
Fox scored a career-high 28 points, including nine straight down the stretch, and Malik Monk added 20 to lift Kentucky past Alabama 79-74 in the SEC Tournament semifinal on Saturday.
The Wildcats shot 52 percent from the floor and 69 percent from the line after missing numerous chances that left openings for the pesky Crimson Tide to stay close. But Kentucky converted chances when needed, hitting 13 of 17 free throws in the final six minutes with Fox making 5 of 7 in particular and 11 of 15 overall.
Fox also converted a pair of 3-point plays — the biggest of which gave Kentucky a 67-62 lead with 3:07 remaining — en route to 19 points after halftime.
“I just kept getting the plays and they kept the ball in my hands,” said Fox, who made 8 of 12 shots. “When I know the coach is trusting me and my teammates are trusting me to keep attacking, doing what you’re doing, all I’ve got to do is just make the play.”
After combining for just eight points the previous two games, Monk snapped out of his funk to hit 6 of 14 from the field. Those baskets included a pair of 3-pointers that turned a 17-7 first-half deficit into a 33-32 lead.
Monk later followed a Fox jumper with two free throws with 1:13 left.
“I knew I had to get up and execute for the team,” Monk said of the early practice. “If I get shots before the game, I just have a good game or have a better flow.”