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RECAP: Without De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky finds a way to win in overtime vs. Georgia


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Yes, Kentucky was coming off back-to-back losses, but I don’t think anyone anticipated tonight’s overtime thriller vs. Georgia. The Cats were without De’Aaron Fox, Mychal Mulder, and Sacha Killeya-Jones due to illness and easily got off to their worst start of the season, letting Georgia pull ahead by as many as 14 in the first half; however, in the second half, they finally got rolling behind a huge night from Malik Monk, beating Georgia 90-81 in overtime. Phew.

Monk scored a game-high 37 points, 31 in the second half and overtime, including 7-11 from behind the arc. Without him, Kentucky would have lost, but thankfully, I don’t have to write that recap. The Cats outscored the Bulldogs 14-5 in overtime, saving John Calipari from his first three-game losing streak as Kentucky’s coach and the Big Blue Nation from catastrophe.

It’s insanely late, so let’s roll through this and move on to Signing Day, which begins in just a few hours.

Someone disinfect the Lodge

About an hour before tip off, news broke that De’Aaron Fox would miss tonight’s game due to an illness. Mychal Mulder was already out due to a disclosed illness, and when word came out right before the game that Sacha Killeya-Jones was also sick, fans across the Bluegrass started sending hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to the Wildcat Lodge. After the game, Calipari said Fox and Killeya-Jones came down with the flu, but stayed mum on Mulder’s diagnosis.

“He went on a treadmill today and I watched him, but I have to talk to the trainers and stuff, so I don’t really know, but my guess would be inside of ten days, maybe a week,” Cal said of Mulder’s timeline for return.

Calipari rolled the dice with a lineup of Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, and Bam Adebayo, and if Georgia’s 12-0 start wasn’t indication enough, Calipari said he won’t be using that starting lineup again.

“Didn’t help, did it?” Cal said of his decision to go big at the start. “What did you think? How did that start go? Wasn’t real good, was it? Obviously, that won’t be how we start. We’ll just have to figure it out.”

Malik Monk took over the game

As mentioned earlier, Malik Monk absolutely took over the game after halftime, scoring 31 of his 37 points. Isaiah Briscoe gave Kentucky its first lead of the game at the 18:16 mark in the second half, but from there, Monk did as only Monk can do, hitting five threes in less than five minutes. Monk’s shot is erratic, but when he’s on, he’s on, and he kept Kentucky in the ballgame, literally; Monk’s long two with eight seconds left in the second half forced overtime:

“We were lucky to be in a tie ball game playing a a zone we’ve never played,” Cal said of the 29-29 tie at half. “Our kid goes crazy in the second half, goes for 30.”

Monk has now scored 25 or more points in seven games this year — a single-season record in the Calipari era. Check out the bench’s reaction to his two to force OT:

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Calipari used a zone!

Anyone who’s ever heard John Calipari talk knows he does not like to play zone, but after his team turned in some truly horrendous defensive performances and his starting point guard came down with the flu, he didn’t really have a choice. About five minutes in to the game, Kentucky broke out a 2-3 zone, which Calipari said they started practicing a few days ago.

“We went zone, and I’ve gotta give credit to Tony Barbee. I’m not a zone coach, I don’t like zone, and for two days, we’ve been playing zone. We had to do it because we have to get back to being sharp against it, but we also were playing big lineups with Derek and Wenyen at the three, so we just played zone for two days. So, Tony coached it and I just cringed and saw every — look, when we play zone, every shot they shoot is a three and it goes in. And when they play us zone, we can’t make any shots. I don’t understand it, but that’s how it is.”

Soo…more zone coming?

“That game probably, in total, was all the times I’ve played zone, so the screw-ups we had, we’re not a zone team, but we’re going to have to play some zone,” Cal added, noting that De’Aaron Fox and Sacha Killeya-Jones will likely be game-time decisions Saturday at Florida, while Mychal Mulder will probably be out another ten days (yes, Cal gave that same timeline five days ago).

Isaiah Briscoe came close to another triple double

With Fox out, Briscoe took over the point and fought through his slump, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists. Briscoe wasn’t perfect — he had 6 turnovers — but as the game progressed, you could see the old Briscoe emerge with each drive to the basket, due in part to an ultimatum from Calipari.

“So, you know, what I liked was Isaiah Briscoe’s leadership…I told him a couple times, if you don’t tell these guys, I will, and I don’t want to do it,” Calipari said, preaching the importance of the team becoming empowered without his guidance. “And I can’t do it, because you can’t just let guys do their thing. You’ve got to tell them, the guy’s not doing what we’re asking. You tell him. Make him listen.”

Thank goodness they did.

Monk, Bam, and Briscoe scored 59 of Kentucky’s 61 points after halftime

If Fox is going to be out Saturday vs. Florida, someone else has to step up. The trio of Monk, Bam, and Briscoe scored all but two of Kentucky’s points in the second half and regulation. All three went to the free-throw line late for Kentucky, which is when Calipari preached toughness.

“I talked toughness in the last couple of huddles. That means make your free throws. You can’t miss 0-2. You can’t do a foot kicker. That’s not tough. And the kid listened, and all of a sudden, the last part, he’s making free throws, he’s taking tough shots. Toughness isn’t just pushing people, it’s making tough plays four minutes to go, three minutes to go. ”

Overtime was the best they looked the whole game

Maybe Georgia was tired. Maybe they had given up. Or maybe, Kentucky finally came together as a team to win the game, even without their starting point guard. Because it’s late and I’d rather go to bed on a positive note, I’m going with the latter, not the former. So did John Calipari.

“Well, the thing I told them after, the teams that I really enjoyed coaching will shoot 35% and still win a game. Because they’ll grind it, because they’re tough mentally. They’re tough. They’ll come up with balls physically. They’re not going to turn it over late. They’re going to make all the plays they have to make late to win. This team, for the first time this year, did it. We did it.”

Now, if they could just get healthy.

Get some sleep. Signing Day madness begins in a few hours…

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

28 responses to “RECAP: Without De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky finds a way to win in overtime vs. Georgia”

  1. Luether

    A good summary, Mrs TT. I knew we’d be in a battle without Fox. He is the straw that stirs the drink…

    1. 4everblue

      Is this the first time you’ve watched a UK game? We get every team’s best game, always have and always will, that was a gutsy effort by Georgia.

  2. Cousins Fake Tooth

    Should not of needed OT even w/o Fox.

    1. Harrelson55

      You have to be happy with this win, it was a gutsy effort considering the circumstances.

    2. 4everblue

      Meant this comment for Cousin fake tooth…….. Is this the first time you’ve watched a UK game? We get every team’s best game, always have and always will, that was a gutsy effort by Georgia.

    3. catsarerunnin

      Yes any win by less than 20 points is in reality a loss.

  3. got8want9

    Changing defenses is a good thing..glad to see it. Hopefully he will let Barbee continue to teach the 2-3 and add a match up zone and I think with their length and speed a 1-3-1. They dont have to play any zone for long periods of time… but mixing it up will be effective and might just be the answer to a bad matchup in the NCAA tournament! Good win .. Go Cats!

    1. WatchutalkinboutWillis

      Exactly right. Mixing up the defenses will help us in the long run I believe.

    2. Luether

      Just common sense. Everybody gets this but Cal…

  4. keiths

    Cal said “We;re not a zone team” Than what the hell are we? We certainly can’t play man to man.

    1. RealCatsFan

      How long did he actually play zone last night? I was at the game – seemed like it was only for a couple of minutes.

  5. Han

    That was a crazy game to be at. We hit 71 first (Matt Jones), and promptly let them go up on us. Looking around the arena, so many people had their heads in their hands. At half-time, I told my uncle “Well, looks like we’re not hitting 90 this game unless it goes to overtime.” Go figure.

    I had exactly one complaint about Briscoe last night and that was when, in overtime with about a 1:20 left and a 6 point lead, he didn’t pull the ball out but ran the normal fast offense, giving the Monk the ball and Monk lost it in the paint. Earlier in the season, Briscoe was a bit better at clock management. Otherwise, he had a fantastic game. If we hadn’t been focused on just scoring and trying to play some D, Briscoe surely would’ve gotten that 2nd trip-dub.

    1. RealCatsFan

      I was wondering if “the rule of 71” came through again last night. It did, but just barely!

    2. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

      What are the stats on the “Rule of 71” when 1) the score is tied at 70, and 2) one of the teams goes to the free throw line and only makes 1 of 2 to get to 71?

  6. Jiminy Crickets

    Yes we won. And in the second half and overtime they played much better. But does anyone really think that without fox we should be simply barely better than Georgia? The defensive effort of this team was no better last night than it has been all season. Yes, I would much rather they learn from the win than a loss, but to say they played better is a stretch. Briscoe drove the lane two times with under 18 seconds to go in the game, when we were down by two. The first one got swatted out of the arena, and The second one he virtually lost control ball and threw it out of bounds, thanking the Lord that it barely touched a Georgia players leg. Had that ball not touched his leg, it would’ve been Georgia ball with 10 seconds to go, and down by two. What really amazes me, this how in the beginning of the year we were averaging 30 assist on 50 shots. The assist numbers have gone down tremendously. Meaning, the more the season goes on the more selfish this team seems to be getting. We needed 47 from Mark do when in Las Vegas by one, and needed 35 to win at home against a very mediocre Georgia. If Mark has a bad shooting game we have no one else on the team that can “step up”. Louisville beat Pittsburgh by 55, the same team that almost beat North Carolina last night, they beat NC State by 25 one game after NCState beat Duke (both of those teams are about on par with Georgia) and they are down both of their starting guards, and Snyder may be out another week. They are winning like this, because they are playing incredible defense, something that I would give anything to see our cats do the same

    1. Jiminy Crickets

      I use voice text, sorry. I meant monk of course not Mark

    2. RealCatsFan

      You make some good points. I will still take Cal over Pitino every day, especially considering the shenanigans under Pitino at UofL, but you have to give him credit that he knows how to motivate his teams to play defense. Now, that being said, he is generally doing this with a bunch of kids who have been there for at least a couple of years, meaning that they have had time to teach them multiple, complicated defensive schemes. Cal has most of these kids for about six months, straight out of HS. It is what it is – that is what we signed up for with Cal and the 1 and done system. That being said, there is no excuse for the defensive atrophy that Cal’s past two teams have shown. Many were saying that last year’s team was one of the poorest defending teams under Cal, and maybe at UK period. Unfortunately this team has fallen off even more. It’s not lack of athletes, there is something else more fundamental going on. Hopefully they get it figured out quickly, because we are not going far in the tournament playing defense like this.

      One more thing – keep in mind that teams heat up and cool down all year long. Look at all of the top-ten teams that have gone down with losses over the past couple of weeks. There are a few teams that were on a hot streak that now have multiple losses in a row – UCLA, WVU, ND, etc. There are simply not a lot of dominant teams this year – it’s a lot like 2014. Maybe that will bode well for us – Malik Monk = this year’s Aaron Harrison? 😉

    3. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

      The thing is though, RCF, I remember Joe B. coming on KSR earlier in the season and saying he wishes Cal would use some zone, and he said it’s very easy to teach. He specifically mentioned that the 1-3-1 is very effective. I don’t remember if he said that one is easier to teach than others.

      Anyway, he didn’t rip Cal but I thought it was telling that he said that.

    4. got8want9

      CG – you make an excellent point.. Coach Hall knows the value of a good zone defense when needed.I didnt hear him say that but smiled when I saw your message. I have been saying we have the personnel to be very effective with a 1-3-1. You can play it soft or trap out of it to speed things up and occasionally catch a team off guard with it by just using it after made freethrows, etc.

  7. RealCatsFan

    Cal said Sacha is a game time decision? What decision is there to make? The kid never gets any clock at all – hell, he even plays behind the walk-ons now. Imagine that, a 5-star, McD’s AA getting absoultely NO clock. Wonder if opposing coaches will try to use that for recruiting.

  8. chris43

    This is a “rumor” that I heard but this is from a VERY CREDIBLE source who in fact retired after working in UK Athletics dept. for decades. The word is in the “inner circle” so to speak and Fox is jealous on Monk potentially going higher than him in the draft. At the start of the year mock drafts had both in the top 10 but Fox was ALWAYS a few spots ahead of Monk. Well Monk had some good games and people started to see that not only is he a shooter but he can also jump out the gym and is very athletic. If you noticed or keep up with Monk drafts Monk has passed Fox in quite a few. But from what I’ve been hearing that had a lot to do with Monk vanishing for 5-8 minutes or so in games and not even getting a shot. It also extends to getting the ball inside to Bam. I hate to think it’s true but word is Fox is playing for himself and draft position only. I also heard that before the UT game they almost fought in the locker room they argued so bad. I also find it kind of odd that after hearing this Fox doesn’t play or even suit up last night. I hope it isn’t true but I’m starting to wonder if Cal might might be sending Fox a message by not playing him or even allowing him to suit up. If so hopefully he gets the message.

    1. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

      Thanks Oliver Stone. 😉

    2. EdC

      LOL I had NO idea that Jessie Ventura was UK basketball fan.

    3. catsarerunnin

      Wow was the very credible source part of the investigation of the Kennedy assassination????

    4. J-Dub421

      Dude, don’t go around starting rumors. If Fox and Monk hate each other, then why are they roommates?

  9. henderblue

    ^ hogwash

  10. chris43

    Call it what you wants boys and girls! This came DIRECTLY from a retired member of the UK Athletic Staff! I hope it isn’t true! I’m a huge Cats fan and have been for decades. If so it would truly destroy the team. You’ll find out soon enough if it’s true.

    1. catsarerunnin

      Well if it’s from a retired member of the UK athletic staff it must be true. I won’t be able to sleep now so thanks a lot.