Man, I forgot what it’s like to wake up after a big basketball win. Behind defense and an incredible shooting night from Malik Monk, Kentucky knocked of #13 Michigan State last night 69-48 to move to 3-0 on the season. I just wrote about the big win a few hours ago, but let’s talk about it some more, okay?
1. I love how Malik Monk compared Madison Square Garden to his high school gym in Arkansas
Monk had seven threes last night, reminding the national media that he’s quite capable of lighting it up from the outside, thank you very much. When asked about the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, Monk said he was used to it thanks to playing in front of big crowds at his high school in Arkansas.
“Coming from Bentonville, Arkansas, I was like the top player in Arkansas, so every game was packed for me. I had a lot of adversity because I committed to Kentucky. I’m used to a lot of fans and ‘ooohs’ and all that stuff. Adversity, I’m used to all that.”
Now, I’ve been to one of Monk’s big games in Bentonville, and while the atmosphere was good, I’m not quite sure it compares to the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden with the whole nation watching; however, I love that Monk thinks they’re essentially the same. I mean, both gyms have hoops, right?
2. As Isaiah Briscoe said, these are not normal freshmen
The rest of the nation may have been surprised by Kentucky’s freshmen’s poise on the big stage, but not Isaiah Briscoe. The sophomore told reporters something that we’re quickly realizing: these freshmen aren’t normal freshmen.
“Malik hasn’t been shooting the ball as well as I know he can. I knew he was due for a big game. (De’Aaron) Fox came up big down the stretch. Bam played well. All the freshmen, like I said, they don’t play like ordinary freshmen. I’m comfortable with them out there on the court and I wouldn’t trade those guys for anybody.”
3. In fact, those freshmen factored into Briscoe’s decision to come back
When asked about his decision to come back to school after testing the NBA waters, Briscoe said knowing some of these not-normal-freshmen played a factor.
“I knew the freshman class coming in. I knew all of them from camps and everything like that. I knew they were a great group of guys, and I knew we had a chance to be special. Coach mentioned that to me before I actually decided to come back. I’m just glad to be back. I grew as a player on and off the court. That’s the reason why I came back.”
Briscoe had another huge game last night, finishing with 21 points, including a 5-5 mark from the free-throw line. In the past two games, he’s shooting 17-31 from the field and only has two turnovers. Yes, I’d say he’s grown as a player.
4. Highlight break
5. Calipari said again that De’Aaron Fox might be fast than John Wall
“He is so fast,” Cal said of the freshmen, who battled foul trouble but finished with 12 points and six assists. “I told John Wall, he’s faster than John Wall. He didn’t believe.”
Here’s a fun stat. The only two freshmen in Kentucky basketball history to have at least 45 points and 21 assists through their first three games? John Wall and De’Aaron Fox.
That’s why it’s so fitting that…
6. John Wall was there
In case you missed the ESPN broadcast, Calipari’s former pupil was on the sidelines to see Fox and the Cats for himself. When asked about the team, whom he last saw at Madness, Wall confirmed that some of the NBA guys that were in town that weekend played pick-up against them and were very impressed. I love how he’s looking at the bench like a proud big brother. Wall posted this picture on Instagram afterwards as he made his way to Philly for tonight’s game vs. the 76ers:
Love you too.
7. The most encouraging sign?
While Michigan State’s freshmen shied at the spotlight, Kentucky’s freshmen embraced it, especially on the defensive end. Tom Izzo said as much after the game.
“I was very disappointed in the way we were kind of ‘deer in the headlights,’ but you know you have four freshmen playing at Madison Square Garden and coming off the Hawaii trip, that’s the way we played,” Izzo said. “I think John [Calipari] did a hell of a job. I do think that is one of his better defensive teams. They did a very good job.”
The much ballyhooed Miles Bridges finished with six points and nine turnovers, and was clearly emotional on the sidelines in the final seconds. Afterwards, Izzo told reporters that Bridges said he got “embarrassed.”
8. Calipari’s entire press conference if you missed it
9. Thank you, Kansas
If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and check DidDukeWin.com. It’s beautiful:
Kansas knocked of #1 Duke 77-75 on a last second shot by Frank Mason III in the nightcap, giving Kentucky fans the best possible outcome. If you’re like me and didn’t stay up for the end of the game, enjoy the final seconds below:
I love that college basketball is back, and I cannot wait for the showdown between the Cats and the Jayhawks in January.
10. Kentucky should be ranked #1 on Monday
Assuming they beat Duquesne on Sunday, of course. I was kind of enjoying this flying under the radar thing, but hey, being the number one team in the land is never a bad thing.