National Basketball Association
Kentucky 71, Texas A&M 63
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, March 4, 2017
Where: Reed Arena, College Station, Texas
# Doug Shows, # Brian Shey, # Vladimir Voyard-Tadal
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- No. 9 Kentucky stands alone as Southeastern Conference champion following a 71-63 victory at Texas A&M on Saturday.
Kentucky finished the regular season 26-5, 16-2 in the SEC for its 48th conference title. That number is more than all other league schools combined. Texas A&M, co-champion last year, finished 16-14, 8-10.
Kentucky will have the No. 1 seed for next week's conference tournament in Nashville. Texas A&M must wait until the end of Saturday's play to know its seeding.
"I was a little worried coming into the game," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "You're already the one seed, you're already the champion. This is kind of a throwaway game and we had to play and play well and fight."
Calipari tried to convince his club they were fighting every school in the nation for the best NCAA Tournament seed.
"I tried to tell them, 'This is all about your seed. This isn't about this game,'" Calipari said. "The better your seed, the better chance you have at advancing. What you want to force them to do is they gotta give you the seed you deserve, and to do that you gotta win games, and road games are good."
Freshman guard De'Aaron Fox scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Kentucky, while freshman forward Bam Adebayo added 13 points and eight rebounds and senior Derek Willis had 11 points.
Freshman guard Malik Monk, the SEC's leading scorer at 21.7 points per game, was held to six by Texas A&M. It was the first time this year Monk failed to score double figures.
"They start four freshmen. At the end of the day, that's four freshmen," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "I know how our sophomores and freshmen can drive me nuts. So you got 18-year-old players, I don't care how talented they are, they don't understand how every possession you have to play with a sense of urgency. Coach Calipari, he's coach of the year in my opinion in this league. 16-2 in the league with four freshmen starting? Shoot. That's a heck of a year. Conference champions."
Texas A&M was led by sophomore guard Admon Gilder with 22 points. Next came 6-9, 237-pound freshman Robert Williams with 20 points and 13 rebounds, and 6-10, 270-pound sophomore Tyler Davis had 11 points and eight rebounds.
"A&M, they are playing the way this team needs to play and getting the ball where they need to get the ball," Calipari said. "When you look today and you saw Williams go for 20 and 13. He just absolutely killed us. So knowing that and knowing what I saw here, I was a little worried coming into the game."
Leading 32-28 at halftime, Kentucky opened the second half with Fox scoring Wildcats' first nine points, including back to back 3-pointers, for a 40-31 lead. Fox entered the game as a 19-percent shooter from 3-point range.
At 14:06, Kentucky grabbed a 47-35 lead, powered by a 43-16 run.
Kentucky won the game despite falling behind big for the third game in a row. The Wildcats trailed, 19-4, with 12:09 left in first half before rallying to lead 32-28 at halftime.
Kentucky trailed Vanderbilt 25-6 and Florida 18-6, but won both games as part of this eight-game winning streak.
On Saturday, the Wildcats dodged another bullet. Davis scored five points and Williams added four to push Texas A&M to a 19-4 lead as Kentucky missed 10 of its first 11 shots and had only three rebounds.
But then Kentucky went on a 20-4 run to grab its first lead, 24-23, with 3:09 left in the first half.
The rally got an unexpected lift from a couple of seniors. Dominique Hawkins came off the bench for a team-best eight points to go with three assists and one steal. Willis added five points, three rebounds, one blocked shot and one steal.
"Dom was ridiculous," Calipari said. "I mean, both the energy he showed and his defensive plays, his drive, the 3-point play. He's given this team such a lift."
After the 1-for-11 start, Kentucky finished the first half shooting 38.2 percent, including 21.4 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats had 23 rebounds and three turnovers.
Texas A&M got 11 points from Davis and eight from Gilder. The Aggies shot 37 percent to go with 20 rebounds and four assists.
NOTES: Kentucky freshman Malik Monk has scored 20 points or more in a half on six occasions this season. ... Texas A&M is No. 1 in the SEC at 5.7 blocked shots per game, good for eighth in the nation. ... Kentucky leads the series with Texas A&M, 8-3, including three in a row.
Top Game Performances
De'Aaron Fox 19
Admon Gilder 22
Isaiah Briscoe 8
Tonny Trocha-Morelos 10
Edrice Adebayo 8
Robert Williams 13
De'Aaron Fox 5
||Free Throws Made
Admon Gilder 5
Dominique Hawkins 2
Chase Carlton 1
Derek Willis 3
Tonny Trocha-Morelos 3
Team Stats Summary