Hawkins is a diamond in the rough

Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins blocks Georgia forward Cameron Forte at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky leads Georgia 42-27 at halftime. Photo by Adam Pennavaria

By Kyle Arensdorf

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The Cats’ 69-58 victory against Georgia was decided in the first four minutes of the game on Tuesday night.

And it’s a testament to the stellar starting five that head coach John Calipari stumbled upon in early December.

When sophomore forward Alex Poythress was lost for the season after the team’s 10th game, the Cats’ makeup, and their season hopes, teetered.

But now in early February the loss has looked more like a blessing in disguise.

When Poythress went down, a void was left in UK’s starting platoon — one that was filled by sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins.

It was an interesting move.

Poythress was a defensive asset and limited the Cats slightly on the offensive side of the ball. Some thought Calipari should enlist a more offense-centric player to step up, like freshman forward Trey Lyles.

But Hawkins, not known for his offensive abilities, got the call and has looked to be a hidden gem in Calipari’s already deep arsenal.

His stats won’t blow you away — he had just three points and a steal in nine minutes of play — but what he does for his team is unquantifiable.

In those opening four minutes Tuesday, Hawkins helped the Cats jump out to 11 quick points while holding the Bulldogs to only one.

When the score was 8-1, Hawkins turned Georgia over by drawing an offensive foul.

On the very next play, Hawkins was sent to the free throw line to complete a four-point play.

Soon after, a rebound was saved from going out of bounds and thrown toward backcourt. It would have been a turnover if not for a diving attempt from Hawkins.

That’s what he does for this team.

He brings an energy that’s contagious, and everyone in the starting lineup raises their level of play as a result; if you don’t match Hawkins’ intensity, he’ll expose you.

He doesn’t need a sparkling stat sheet because that’s not his role, and more importantly, he’s OK with that.

The Cats put the game in their rearview mirror after the 42-27 first half, and as a result the Bulldogs won the second-half battle 31-27.

But Calipari only went with his starting lineup, and Hawkins, for one minute in the second half. And it showed in the team’s play.

Hawkins is a much more important cog than he gets credit for. He’s the key in the Cats’ ignition.

His intensity was in part the reason the Cats built that 15-point halftime lead.

And the lack thereof in the second half was the reason they fell asleep at the wheel and let Georgia sneak back into the game.