Prior to tonight, four of the last five games between Kentucky and Texas A&M had gone to overtime, so you can understand why some Cats fans would feel apprehensive heading into this game; however, this Kentucky team is simply too much for most teams in college basketball, especially on nights like this. Kentucky absolutely dominated Texas A&M tonight by a score of 100-58 in a performance John Calipari said was as good as the Cats get.
“We’ve got a good team and I told Billy after, ‘That’s about as well as we can play,'” Calipari said afterwards. “In other games, we had played well for 20 minutes and then 10 minutes, we looked like an AAU team. Today, we were grinding it on defense, didn’t take crazy chances, so it was pretty good for us.”
That’s an understatement, so before we all turn in, let’s relive the best moments.
1. Malik Monk, y’all
When Monk’s on fire like he was tonight, other teams just don’t stand a chance. Monk had 26 points off 8-11 shooting in 24 minutes. He had five threes and was a perfect five of five from the free throw line. Speaking of, there were some scary moments for Monk in the first half; after taking a hit to the chin, Monk had to go to the locker room to get checked out, and when he returned, turned an ankle on an awkward shot. Thankfully, he was okay and went back to work, swishing and smiling his way through the game.
“Malik, when he gets going — I’ve seen it all since he was a freshman, it’s hard to stop him,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said afterwards.
At one point, Monk was so hot Cal had to remind him to let his teammates have a chance, but before you call him greedy, look at him celebrating Jonny David’s three at the end of the game:
2. Isaiah Briscoe has hit 6-7 threes in the past five games
There are lots of great stats from tonight, but the most surprising may be Isaiah Briscoe’s efficiency from behind the three point line. Briscoe was a perfect 3-3 from three-point land tonight, and is 6-7 from three in the past five games. Calipari said that’s a product of hours of hard work in the gym.
“He’s in the gym working,” Cal said of Briscoe. “He got away from it for awhile, and his shooting went south. Now, he’s in there after every practice. He stays after at the shoot around.”
After Briscoe’s struggles shooting the ball least year, I don’t think many of us anticipated what this team could be like if he improved his jumper; Billy Kennedy said that’s a scary, scary thought.
“When he’s making shots, that’s what we game planned to live with. When he’s doing that, they can win it all. I know Coach Cal doesn’t want to hear that. If he’s a weapon on offense like he was today, I don’t know how — it’s hard, really, to defend them.”
3. Camp Cal’s defensive practices paid off
When the Cats are running and gunning, it’s always entertaining, but most heartening was Kentucky’s defensive performance tonight. Kentucky held Texas A&M to 58 points off 45% shooting tonight, and while that may not sound as impressive as Kentucky defenses of yore, considering they’ve allowed 72 points per game thus far, Cal was pleased.
“This is starting to look like a team I coach defensively,” Cal said. “This is a game where everything was tough for them. I thought we did a good job trapping in the post. I thought we did some good stuff today.”
When asked what the biggest improvement was during Camp Cal, Monk said communication on defense, which makes sense when you consider the team focuses has focused solely on defense each morning.
4. Five stats that jump off the page
And these tell the story of the game:
|Points off Turnovers||2||35|
|Second Chance Points||3||21|
To me, the best of those is Kentucky’s 21 second chance points to Texas A&M’s three. Given the Aggies’ slow pace of play (slowest in the SEC), I thought the Cats would roll tonight, but it was good to see them cleaning up and taking care of business in the post along with burning the Aggies in transition.
After pointing out that A&M has two guards out, Cal admitted that when Kentucky’s putting pressure on the ball, nights like this happen.
“What our forte is, is putting pressure on the ball. So, his guards are out, our guards put pressure on the ball and that’s what you would see.
5. “[Bam] looked like a guard!”
Kentucky won the rebounding battle (30-28) and points in the paint (34-28), and while none of the big guys put up huge numbers, Cal seemed happy, especially with Bam.
“He was great. How about the break away lay up? He looked like a guard! It was crazy,” Cal said. “Isaac and — I thought Tai was pretty good today, he just can’t play the extended minutes. Two or three minutes of him banging and going after balls is not bad. So, Sacha got a chance to go a little bit. Now we can watch tape and try to build on that.”
This is the play he was referencing there:
– Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) January 4, 2017
6. What about the four?
Kentucky was so fast tonight the problematic four spot wasn’t really a problem, but Cal said he’s been encouraged by the progress Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis are making in Camp Cal.
“Wenyen is starting to become disciplined. Derek broke down about three times in a row in the second half, but is better defensively,” Cal said. “I told them, I said, look, we had some breakdowns, but we didn’t have 10 minutes of it in what we have seen in just about every game we have played.”
7. Long way to March, but tonight was fun
We’ve seen a lot of good basketball over the years, but few groups have been as fun as this one when they’re playing like they did tonight. Calipari said as much afterwards.
“But it was a good win. Again, Texas A & M, they just hit us on a good night. That’s as good as we’ll play. We shot the three, we made free throws. I mean, that’s as good as we go.”