NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John Calipari wanted a physical game for his eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats before the NCAA Tournament.
He got just that Sunday from Arkansas with a couple of added bonuses of both winning yet another Southeastern Conference Tournament title with his Wildcats keeping their poise under pressure aside from Malik Monk celebrating a couple of shots with throat slash gestures.
De'Aaron Fox scored 18 points, and Kentucky won its third straight SEC Tournament championship by beating Arkansas 82-65 in a game that got very chippy in the final couple of minutes.
"That ends up being a great teaching point, and we did what we had to," Calipari said.
The Wildcats (29-5) added their 30th tournament title all-time to go with their 48 regular season championships.
It's time to celebrate...
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 12, 2017
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.
During warmups, Monk said someone with the Razorbacks tried to taunt the native of Lepanto, Arkansas. Monk said he couldn't remember what the man said.
"I made a 3, emotions took over, made a little (throat slash gesture) like the game was over," Monk said. "I mean, I just got to learn from that."
Calipari said he will talk to Monk after not seeing the gestures during the game.
"No need for that," Calipari said.
It got very chippy late 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.
— Hayden Balgavy (@HaydenBalgavy) March 12, 2017
"Obviously, when it got really rough, not one of my kids moved," Calipari said. "they huddled together. Not one of them came back at anybody."
Kentucky finished by outscoring Arkansas 9-1, the final points a 3 by Fox.
Arkansas (25-9) fell to 1-6 in this championship, having lost to Kentucky for the second time in three years.
"It was unfortunate," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said of emotions getting out of hand late. "But, at the same time, I don't think anybody was intent on trying to hurt anybody. But at the end of the day, our guys fought to the bitter end and came up a little short."
Arkansas guard Daryl Macon said that wasn't the Razorbacks at the end.
"We kind of lost our composure and just got to get back to it," Macon said.
Monk and Bam Adebayo each finished with 17 points, and Hawkins added 14 for Kentucky.
Macon led the Razorbacks with 18 points, Hannahs had 14 and Barford 13.
Kentucky never trailed 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.
The 2017 #SECMBB All-Tournament Team:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 12, 2017
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.
The Wildcats certainly helped themselves with their 11th straight win.
Arkansas: NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky: NCAA Tournament.
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter @TeresaMWalker