LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox alternated determined drives to the basket with soft jumpers that showed why he is the second-leading scorer for No. 6 Kentucky.
Making it more satisfying for the Wildcats freshman was getting other contributions to offset an off night for scoring leader Malik Monk.
Fox scored a career-high 27 points, Derek Willis and Isaiah Briscoe each added 15 and Kentucky pulled away to beat Arkansas 97-71 on Saturday night.
“De’Aaron Fox is ridiculous,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “He’s been doing extra work. He’s been coming to practice early, not by choice, and he has really been working and it showed in the game.”
Unlike two previous routs that were settled early, the Wildcats (13-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) worked longer to put away the Razorbacks in a sometimes-chippy game.
Bam Adebayo’s 3-point play eventually provided a 60-48 lead with 14 1/2 minutes remaining and Kentucky extended it behind Fox, who scored six straight points to make it 74-57. He shot 10 of 16 from the field to top his previous scoring best (24) against North Carolina last month.
Like Calipari, Fox credited more time in the gym.
“I was efficient today and I think it was due to me practicing more,” Fox said. “There’s a lot of conditioning in those workouts, so I was never tired and I think it showed.”
Monk added 12 points — 10 below his team-leading average — with 10 coming in the second half to help Kentucky earn another double-digit win. Fortunately for the Wildcats, the freshman guard didn’t have to have a big night when his backcourt mates were chipping in.
“Even if he isn’t making shots, teams are still going to guard him,” Fox added. “When things aren’t going his way, it would turn into a one-on-one with my defender and I think I won that battle a lot.”
Adebayo had 11 points and seven rebounds while Briscoe grabbed nine to lead the Wildcats, who owned the boards 43-30.
Free-throw shooting also boosted Kentucky as it converted 28 of 40 opportunities, both season highs. Fox made all seven attempts while Briscoe was 7 of 9.
Daryl Macon had 15 points and Moses Kingsley and Jaylen Barford 14 each for Arkansas (12-3, 1-2), which shot 40 percent.
THE BIG PICTURE
Arkansas: Barford came close to matching his career high of 17 points in the first half with 6-of-9 shooting. But he didn’t score after halftime and the Hogs were no match on the boards against Kentucky.
“Before half(time), it was tremendous effort by our guys,” coach Mike Anderson said. “But we all know the game is 40 minutes. We didn’t do our part in the second half.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats continued to shoot well, hitting 32 of 60 to surpass 50 percent for the third straight game. Monk started quickly against the Razorbacks, following a jumper with a steal and feed Fox for a dunk before fouls limited him. He finished 4 of 10 from the field with four fouls and didn’t make a 3-pointer for the first time this season.
Arkansas’ defense played in a part in that, but coach John Calipari warned about the possibility of Monk trying too hard against Arkansas.
“It’s really hard playing your hometown team,” the coach said. “It’s just hard. You got a tough foul, and it was on him, and it was a foul. He had no discipline.”
Fox and Barford had to be separated early in the second half after Barford appeared to stomp on Briscoe as he lay beneath Arkansas’ basket. Each received non-shooting technical fouls, and Bam Adebayo followed with a 3-point play.
Kentucky should move into the Top Five despite taking longer than usual to roll to another win by at least 23 points.
Arkansas: Stays home next week, hosting Mississippi State on Tuesday night and Missouri next Saturday.
Kentucky: Visits Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, seeking its 80th series win in 94 meetings against the Commodores. Doing so would avenge last year’s 74-62 loss in Nashville.
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