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3s carry Cats to Senior Night victory

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Darius Miller scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers in a Senior Night win over Georgia. (Phillip Andrews, UK Athletics) Darius Miller scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers in a Senior Night win over Georgia. (Phillip Andrews, UK Athletics)
When Anthony Davis hit the first 3-pointer of his college career less than two minutes in, it seemed like it would be that kind of night.

When Kentucky hit 3-pointers on six straight possessions at one point in the second half, there was no doubt about it.

"We'll beat you by a bunch when we shoot it like that, and that's what happened today," John Calipari said.

Following a Senior Night ceremony honoring Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas, No. 1 UK (29-1, 15-0 Southeastern Conference) shot 15 of 27 (55.6 percent) from 3-point range en route a 79-49 victory over Georgia (13-16, 4-11 SEC). Playing his final game in Rupp Arena, Miller, the lone four-year senior on the roster, hit five 3s and led the Wildcats with 17 points.

"It felt really good," Miller said. "We all had it going tonight and I think that's how it should be the last home game. I'm just glad we came out and performed the way we did."

While Vargas had two points and three rebounds in the opening minutes of his first career start, things didn't begin so auspiciously for Miller. He committed a pair of turnovers within the first six minutes and failed to score through 16 minutes. He attributed his slow start to Senior Night nerves, but he ultimately calmed down.

"I think I came out kind of slow because I was a little bit too excited, too amped up and a little bit emotional," Miller said. "They kind of talked to me about just settling down and playing as if it was another game and that's when it started clicking."

Miller hit the final shot in UK's streak of six 3s in as many possessions, and what finally put it to an end wasn't a missed shot. It was a pair of Doron Lamb free throws, after which Marquis Teague buried another 3. In eight possessions, Kentucky had scored 23 points and its lead had ballooned from 23 to 41 points.

"That was my first time doing that," Lamb said. "On this team, we all made shots. That was my first time in a game like that where we made six 3-pointers in a row. I was surprised we all did that at the same time."

The Wildcats have been a solid shooting team all season, ranking 42nd in the nation in 3-point shooting before Thursday night's outburst, but have shifted seamlessly from dominance inside to dead-eye shooting from deep. Six times this season UK has hit three or fewer 3-point baskets, winning all but one of those games. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cats have hit 10 3s or more four times, winning on each occasion.

Against Georgia, UK was actually outscored in the paint 20-16, but mostly because the Cats opted to attack from the outside. Six different players hit 3-pointers, including Miller, Doron Lamb and Kyle Wiltjer, who all hit three or more.

"We were just on fire today," Lamb said. "We made like 15 3s as a team. That's unbelievable for a team to do that. Every player was on fire today and it started from the shoot-around this afternoon."

Performances from outside like that one will make fans wonder why their Cats don't rely on the outside shot more often. On the season, UK has shot barely one-fifth of its field goals from 3-point range and that's not going to change if Calipari has his way.

"We shoot a high percentage of 3s, so probably we should shoot more, but you know, I just like layups and dunks better than 3s, and so we want to get to the rim," Calipari said.
 
Even though it was Davis that opened the 3-point barrage, the player of the year candidate took a back seat on Senior Night. He had a quiet game (by his standards), posting nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks, attempting just five shots.

"I feel like he stepped back and wanted Eloy to play a lot so there was times where he got into the game and he'd tell Coach to get Eloy in there," Miller said. "That just shows the type of player and the type of teammate he is."

Davis will surely have his moments as the Cats march toward their ultimate goal.

"I think we're all focused on the same thing, which is winning the national championship," Miller said.
 

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