CRAWFORD | No. 2 seed Kentucky carries 11-game win streak into N - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | No. 2 seed Kentucky carries 11-game win streak into NCAA Tournament

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The image from Kentucky's 2016-17 media guide. (UK athletics photo) The image from Kentucky's 2016-17 media guide. (UK athletics photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Kentucky will enter the NCAA Tournament with a head of steam, and a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance. 

Kentucky will face Horizon League champion Northern Kentucky in its first round game in Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday. The Norse, who qualified for the NCAA Tournament in their first season of eligibility after moving up from NCAA Division II, are coached by John Brannen and led by Drew McDonald, a 6-7 forward out of Cold Spring, Ky., who averages 16.9 points per game, and by Louisville native Lavonne Holland, a standout from Ballard High School who transferred to NKU from junior college and is averaging 12.9 per contest.

The winner of that game will face the winner of Wichita State-Dayton. Ahead in the bracket if Kentucky gets into the Sweet 16 could be a rematch with UCLA, and the No. 1 seed in the South is North Carolina, a team Kentucky beat 103-100 behind a 47-point effort from Malik Monk in Las Vegas back in December.

Kentucky is riding an 11-game winning streak after a stirring 82-65 thumping of Arkansas in Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship in Nashville. After a pair of close wins, the Wildcats took control early against the Razorbacks and maintained their margin -- aside from a brief late threat by Arkansas to cut its deficit to nine in the closing moments.

The Wildcats rank No. 4 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, and finished conference tournament play with a record of 29-5 against a schedule ranked No. 14 nationally.

For the Wildcats, freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox is playing some of his best basketball of the season, and picked up SEC Most Outstanding Player honors.

Malik Monk, in a bit of a slump, broke out of it in Nashville with 37 points in his final two tournament games, and center Bam Adebayo continued his efficient play with 17 points and nine rebounds in the final.

But it’s Kentucky’s three seniors and their increased contributions that may be a key to their NCAA Tournament prospects. Dominique Hawkins was brilliant off the bench in all three games in Nashville, bringing much-needed defensive intensity and energy, while scoring 14 points in the championship game.

Derek Willis was Kentucky’s leading rebounder in the SEC Tournament, while Mychal Mulder added some instant offense when needed.

Kentucky is making its 56th NCAA Appearance and seeking its ninth championship. The Wildcats have finished runner-up four times and reached 17 Final Fours.

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