There's nothing quite like Senior Night for Kentucky basketball. Three Wildcats -- including two native sons of the Bluegrass -- had their special night as Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Derek Willis played their final games in Rupp Arena and UK made a 19-point comeback to win, 73-67.
It began with warmups, a pregame talk from John Calipari and a team prayer. The Wildcats wanted to win this one for their seniors.
The festivities began familiarly. Mulder and Hawkins stepped through their hoops and greeted their families. Hawkins was soaking in every moment as he got a huge ovation from the Big Blue Nation.
When it was Willis' turn, things got interesting. The Mount Washington, Kentucky, native accomplished a program first: a Senior Night proposal to his girlfriend, Keely Potts! Congratulations to the newly engaged couple!
“It just meant a lot me," Willis said. "I’m still kind of up on all the adrenaline and stuff. Probably when I get back to the house and kind of hang out and chill out for a minute, that’s probably when it will all hit me. That’s usually how it goes for me with all that stuff. I was just trying to stay in the moment and I also had a game to play too. I was focused on making this moment special for me and my girlfriend, but also have a duty to play basketball and come out to win.”
Once the game got going, the Cats found themselves in a big early hole. The seniors were there making big plays as UK worked to dig itself out of a 25-6 deficit. By halftime, Kentucky closed to within 30-24.
The comeback bid continued in the second half. The Commodores were red hot from the field, but a furious full-court press spearheaded by Hawkins kept the Cats in it.
The Cats got back in it and eventually played their way into a tie. Then, down one, of course Willis gave UK its first lead with a 3-ball.
To close it out, UK turned to Malik Monk. He drilled two 3s in the final four minutes and scored the Cats' final four points at the free-throw line to close it out and give him 27 points for the game.
Quite a way for a special group of three seniors to say goodbye.
"I just said to all of them, I hope you're taking as much as you've given us from here," John Calipari said. "That what you learned and what you're taking, the friendships, the commitments, the habits you've developed that you're taking more than you've given us because they've given us a ton."