LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- After Kentucky's stifling defense showed signs of weaknesses, it showed up down the stretch.
Cliff Hawkins converted a key three-point play as the sixth-ranked Wildcats held off a feisty effort by Austin Peay for a 61-53 victory at Freedom Hall.
Kentucky (8-1) was coming off its first loss, Saturday's 65-56 defeat to Louisville, and limited Austin Peay to 21 percent shooting (5-of-24) in building a 26-12 halftime lead.
But the Governors heated up after the break, nailing 10 of their first 14 shots. An uncontested layup by Maurice Hampton cut the deficit to 53-51 with 3:55 left.
That was the final basket for Austin Peay (3-7) as Kentucky put on the clamps. Hawkins gave the Wildcats some breathing room by taking a feed from Chuck Hayes and converting a layup with 3:08 left. He added the free throw for a 56-51 lead.
Hampton, who scored 17 points, sank two foul shots to pull the Governors within three, but they missed several chances to make it tighter with the Wildcats clamping down. Adrian Henning was forced into missing a 3-pointer, Rhet Wierzba missed a pair at the line and Henning misfired on a runner.
"I will tell you that Kentucky's defense is pretty good," Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said. "We had a terribly difficult time doing anything offensively."
Hayes made two free throws with 43 seconds left and Hawkins added two from the line 16 seconds later to make it 60-53.
"Anytime you are coming off a tough loss like Louisville it is going to be draining and you are going to be a little down," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "I thought our guys fought through it at the end. I expect from a veteran team a lot more poise."
Kentucky improved to 25-0 against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference, including a 4-0 mark against Austin Peay.
Gerald Fitch scored 14 points, Hayes netted 12 and Erik Daniels collected 11 and 10 rebounds as Kentucky struggled offensively. The Wildcats made just 4-of-17 shots from the arc.
"It is a little frustrating," Hawkins said. "We know we are capable of playing better. Coach Smith is extremely frustrated, and when he's not happy, we're not happy."
Kentucky scored the game's first nine points and the final eight of the first half to build its 14-point cushion. Anthony Davis led Austin Peay back by draining four 3-pointers and scoring all of his 15 points in the second half.
"We had trouble trying to defend Anthony Davis," Smith said. "The four threes he made in the second half really made a big difference and got a lot of momentum for them. I was disappointed in our defensive effort in the second half." The Wildcats have won 18 of their last 21 games at Freedom Hall.