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.