CRAWFORD | Monk goes on Vegas heater, drops 47 on UNC as Kentucky wins 103-100 classic
Kentucky freshman Malik Monk scored 47 points -- sixth-most ever for a UK player -- to lead Kentucky past North Carolina 103-100 in Las Vegas Saturday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Can we make this a best-of-seven? Just leave Kentucky and North Carolina in Las Vegas and let them headline.
John Calipari’s Blue Man Group against Roy Williams' Cirque de Sport Coat. It’d sell out every night.
It’s not fair for two heavyweights to move that fast. They didn’t call timeouts. They had pit stops. They scored like crazy. It looked like the first team to 100 would win. North Carolina trailed by 12 in the first half, but got to 100 first, led 100-98 with 47 seconds to play.
But Kentucky freshman Malik Monk was on a burner. Had been since the game started. North Carolina had the ball and a two-point lead when point guard Joel Berry drove and missed a layup. De’Aaron Fox rebounded for Kentucky, and hit Monk ahead. In front of the Kentucky sideline, Monk dribbled to the wing with Calipari yelling at him, “drive it.”
Instead, Monk gathered himself, pulled up and drilled a three-pointer to put UK up 101-100. Another miss by North Carolina later, followed by a pair of free-throws by Fox, and Kentucky walked away with a 103-100 game that will be tough for any college game to beat this season.
Monk finished with 47 points. He was 18-28 from the field, including 8-12 from three-point range. He said he felt like he was on a playground.
“Like a pick-up game, that’s what it felt like,” Monk said. He confirmed the sequence of events on his game winner. “Coach Cal told me to drive, but I was hot, so I didn’t.”
And what did Calipari say to that? “I said, ‘Great shot, kid. Way to shoot that ball.’”
Calipari’s not stupid. Actually, you x-and-o doubters in Calipari need to pay attention. There have been other games this season when Monk got off to a similar hot start, but didn’t continue it. Calipari noticed.
“It would look like he was going to go for 40 . . . then he went six minutes without touching a ball,” Calipari said.
So what does the smart coach do? Some coaches would criticize the player for not being active enough in the offense. Some would criticize his teammates for not looking for him. Calipari is pretty direct in his approach to the game. He sees a guy like Demarcus Cousins on the blocks and thinks, “You know, we should probably throw the ball down to him.” They don’t call you a genius for doing those things, but the longer you watch basketball, the more you actually appreciate them.
So what did Calipari do with his Monk situation?
“What we did for this game — for the season — where if he doesn’t get the ball for a couple, two or three trips down, then we’re running something where they have to throw him the ball,” Calipari said.
For coaches, like players, sometimes the simple play is best.
Monk’s 47 points were the most ever scored by a Kentucky freshman. They were the sixth-most in a game for any Wildcat ever. He’s the only player in the Calipari era to top the 40-point mark for UK.
“It’s not just that he had a bunch of baskets,” Calipari said. “He made daggers that gave us a chance. I made two players in our locker room stand up and come up and hug him because he saved them. Their breakdowns, they’re like, what did you just do? And I made him hug them because he saved them.”
“Malik was off the charts. . . . He’s really good,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of Monk. “. . . Thought we made him work for it, but it’s hard to say you feel good about your defense when the guy get 47. You have to congratulate him. That’s pretty doggone good.”
Monk was the difference in a game that was otherwise as close as you can get. Kentucky shot 54 percent, North Carolina 53. Kentucky went 56 percent from three, North Carolina 53. Kentucky had 10 turnovers, North Carolina 9. Both teams had 44 points in the paint.
If Kentucky had a glaring weakness this season, it was rebounding. The Wildcats outrebounded North Carolina 39-35, and that was probably the main statistical reason they won.
“The biggest thing for us, we talked all week, we outrebounded them,” Calipari said. “I can’t believe it. Never thought it would happen.”
But forget the statistics. The game was a high-wire act from the opening tip. Roy Williams had talent and experience. John Calipari had talent and youth. Both teams opened the throttle and both coaches were willing to let it ride.
“If you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, you’re going to start liking basketball,” Calipari said. “Like, wow, if that’s what it is, I’m going to watch that. . . . It was two teams that played fast and opened the court up, let those kids do their thing.”
Williams echoed that.
“I love up-and-down basketball,” he said. “I’ve always felt like that’ the way I wanted to play, 100 years ago, and I want to coach that way. I think fans enjoy that. You let players make plays. But it was a very competitive game down the stretch. They were probably too comfortable for my liking until the last eight minutes. But then you think about kids making plays like that. You have to enjoy that part of it as a coach. John right now could run a marathon. I can barely get up out of the dadgum chair, but that’s what happens when one guy wins and one guy loses.”
Any other game, 24 points and 10 assists against North Carolina would be headline news. In this one, it was just another night for Fox, who also had four rebounds. Isaiah Briscoe had 10 points and seven rebounds.
North Carolina got 34 points from Justin Jackson and 23 from Berry.
Kentucky has won four of its past five against the Tar Heels, and the 103 points it scored were the most UK ever has scored against North Carolina in a victory. The Wildcats reached the century mark for the fourth time this season, which means that it has matched the most 100-point games in a season for any Calipari UK team — and it’s not even Christmas.
Next up for the Wildcats is a new challenge — they’ll play their first true road game of the season on Wednesday night at Louisville at 7 p.m.
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