How big was De’Aaron Fox’s night? His 39 points are the most ever by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game. Fox was 13-20 from the floor and 13-15 from the line, while Lonzo Ball, considered by some (okay, his father) to be the future number one pick in the draft, only had 10 points. Fox has been on a tear in March, averaging 23 points, well above his 16.1 ppg average, and when squaring off vs. Ball tonight, he made a statement.
“Well, honestly since the postseason started, I’ve been in attack mode,” Fox said. “My teammates just kept going for me. We came in with a game plan. We knew with their bigs, we weren’t doing pick-and-rolls, and I mean, I just made shots today.”
Afterwards, Fox said he could tell early on it was going to be a “special night,” as Steve Alford put it.
“I think I scored like the first eight points of the game, and after that, I was like, you know, it’s going to be a good night for me. I mean, I just attribute that to all my teammates. We knew what the game plan is. Nobody is going to help off Malik, nobody is going to help off Derek, and literally every time, no matter what game, if I get it going, ‘Like and Derek are literally like, come to my side if you want a layup, if you a floater. Just do this or do that, and I listen to them. Even when I’m taking my guy one-on-one, it’s still a team thing because they’re telling me what to do and I’m just doing it. At the end of the day, Coach is putting me in position, my teammates put me in great positions, and all I’ve got to do is execute.”
Once Calipari sensed Fox was on fire, he told the team to step back and let him go to work.
“I am so proud of him, and today all I did at halftime is say, guys, are you watching this game? They said, yeah, okay, good, then you know we’re playing through De’Aaron Fox. The rest of you take a backseat, play off of him, but everything we’re doing good is through him the whole half. And they were ecstatic. Good. Let’s do it.”
What’s gotten into Fox? Dominique Hawkins wants to know too.
“I don’t know, y’all are going to have to ask him that,” Dom said of Fox’s big night. “I might need to ask him that too. He was terrific today. He couldn’t be stopped, and we just kept on giving him the ball.”
Malik Monk raved about his teammate’s leadership.
“Crazy,” Monk said of Fox’s growth as a leader. “He’s been a leader since he’s been playing basketball because I seen him on the circuit before. I mean, nothing changed, but he’s got way more physical and more smarter, and just listening to Coach, like I said, he’s gotten way more physical and way more smarter.”
And Kentucky is in the Elite Eight because of it.