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Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox Carry Kentucky to an Unforgettable Win Over North Carolina

Photo by UK Athletics

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Clutch, cold-blooded, ice in his veins, ax murderer, animal, GOAT, unforgettable, unconscious, unpresidented, ridiculous, ONIONS.

All of those words were used to describe Malik Monk’s 47-point performance against North Carolina, but none of those words do him, or the unbelievably spectacular game, justice.

When Kentucky and North Carolina meet there’s never a dull moment, but of all the “instant classics,” this one might have been the most exhilarating.  As soon as the ball tipped-off, it was a back-and-forth affair.

In the first half each team shot 53% from the field, over 42% from the three-point line and combined for 107 points.  De’Aaron Fox could not be stopped in the lane, scoring 11 with 7 assists, but North Carolina’s point guard Joel Berry countered with 13 points of his own.  The Cats could not stop Justin Jackson, who went for 20 in the first twenty minutes, but they could answer offensively with Monk.

Monk surpassed his career-high with 27 in the first half.  He was feeling it from the start.  “We usually run a play for me the first play of the game.  If I make it I’m usually on.  When we ran a play or me and I made it, I knew I was going to make the rest.”

The first half was a fast-paced shootout, only slowed by the referees’ whistle.  The second half featured plenty of break-aways, but the pace slowed, in part thanks to Roy Williams’ zone defense.  He didn’t implement it often, first around the 12-minute mark, but he switched the defenses enough to force Kentucky into a half court game.  It did not faze them at first, but as the game grew longer, the score got closer.

Kentucky led most of the way in the four to ten point range.  This slam from Bam Adebayo put Kentucky up seven with 5:08 to play.

That was the last time Kentucky’s lead felt comfortable.  A double foul on Adebayo and Kennedy Meeks sent Meeks to the bench for good, with Bam following shortly after.  The Cats had to turn to Isaac Humphries and Wenyen Gabriel for big plays in the post.  It almost cost them.

North Carolina continued to climb back, tying the game just under the three-minute mark.  Kentucky simply couldn’t get a stop.  Then, Monk was ready to save the day with 1:51 to play.  He stole the ball near the three-point line and sprinted down the court with only one man to beat.  Drawing the defender, Monk opted for the oop.  His pass to Wenyen felt bad from the start.

Justin Jackson knocked down a three-pointer shortly after the flubbed fast break.  It looked like that miscue could cost the Wildcats.

Monk wasn’t finished.

Malik Monk countered Jackson’s three by hitting one of his own.  On the next defensive possession, Kentucky gave up an offensive rebound, keeping the Tar Heels’ hopes alive.  Jackson used the extra time to hit a tough ‘And 1’ off a curl screen.

Hope was dwindling from the Big Blue Nation, but Malik Monk was never swayed.  With 20 seconds on the clock, he pump-faked and pulled, capping off a phenomenal 47-point performance with a clutch three, bringing back beloved memories of Aaron Harrison to the Big Blue Nation.

Monk was Not Alone

The guy who scores 47 points gets all of the press, but De’Aaron Fox played arguably his best game as a Wildcat.  Fox scored a career-high 24 points and dished out 10 assists for his fourth double-double.  Fox’s decision-making has never been better, limiting his contested jump shot attempts and committing only two turnovers.

Fox and Monk’s 71 points are the most points by a UK duo in a game since Dan Issel and Mike Pratt combined for 78 vs. LSU in 1970.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

If there was one concern John Calipari had heading into today’s game, it was Kentucky’s ability to rebound against North Carolina.  The Tar Heels entered the game ranked No. 1 in rebounding margin, No. 5 in offensive rebounding and No. 5 in total rebounds.

Even though they surrendered a few crucial offensive rebounds down the stretch, the Wildcats did not disappoint.  Kentucky out-rebounded UNC 39-35; 15 came from the offensive glass compared to Carolina’s 10.

Bad Defense?

Most people will focus on the 103 points Kentucky scored, but some people will scoff at the 100 they surrendered.  I implore those people not to get hung up on the numbers.  They were playing a great team that hit big shots that were usually contested.  However, there is one problem.

If T.J. Leaf and Justin Jackson have taught us anything it’s that Kentucky struggles against athletic forwards that stretch the floor.  Kentucky simply doesn’t have anyone to guard them.  Briscoe is too small, Willis is too slow.  Wenyen Gabriel fits the mold, but he just isn’t a good defender.  Can he improve?  Of course.  He’ll learn the nuances of the game and become a better communicator during Camp Cal, but that can only do so much.

It’s safe to say we’ve found this team’s Kryptonite.

So-So for Bam-Bam

Bam Adebayo frustrates many fans because he refuses to dunk on people’s faces.  Before fouling out (way too early) he had 13 points and 7 rebounds, but he was 6-11 from the field.  Half of those misses were at the rim.  His final two was the dunk from the video above.  That’s the Bam everyone wants to see and we will see soon enough.  He’s just getting started.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

It’s important to appreciate what we just witnessed.  A pair of top ten blue bloods went toe-to-toe for more than 100 points.  A stone cold killer from Arkansas tied the freshman record for three-pointers in a game, broke the freshman record for points in a game by scoring 47, something only four other Wildcats can claim: Jodie Meeks, Bob Burrow, Cliff Hagan and Dan Issel.

Tonight we witnessed greatness.  There are thousands of different words you could use to try to describe the game, but only one works: unforgettable.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

31 Comments for Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox Carry Kentucky to an Unforgettable Win Over North Carolina

  1. kentuck1
    10:55 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    What a game!

    I thought from the beginning that the team that had the most fun in this game would win.

    At times, it looked like an NBA All-Star game.

    There were some super great plays from both sides.

    If UCLA gets beat, we could see these two teams in the Championship game.

  2. damage_control
    11:21 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    That goaltending call on Gabriel with 6:30 on the clock was a HORRIBLE CALL!!! Same with the double foul on Bam & Meeks. Totally atrocious. An investigation into the crew is warranted based on just those 2 calls alone.

  3. damage_control
    11:24 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    offensive foul on Gabriel on rebound with 6:05 in half equally ridiculous

  4. damage_control
    11:28 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    Defensive foul on Briscoe with 3:27 left was a terrible call

  5. damage_control
    11:30 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    I believe it was same ref that called all previously mentioned calls.

  6. Gap Tooth Danny
    11:32 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    LOL, Hilary Clinton was “unpresidented” I think you meant “unprecedented”

    • Dusten
      1:06 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      Funnily enough, the word is actually being used here in reference to Donald Trump, who recently made the misspelling in one of his “precedential” tweets.

  7. damage_control
    11:36 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    Bill Raftery was all too eager to agree with or not question every terrible call as well. He can eat it. FU CBS

  8. damage_control
    11:42 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    Offensive foul on Gabriel on rebound 18:40 left in game- Same ref. Awful

  9. damage_control
    11:48 pm December 17, 2016 Permalink

    I know most of the refs- the only one on this crew I knew was Roger Ayers. He wasn’t the clearly biased one. Never seen the bad one before but if I ever see him again it would be too soon

  10. Matt
    12:17 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Combined for 203 points.

    • Matt
      12:18 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      For the game son

  11. damage_control
    12:17 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Raftery with the brilliant analysis on the botched Gabriel lob pass (perfect pass) “just make the play. You know with the toy with it look away.” Dude it was a perfect pass that hit off Gabriel’s hands. If you can’t recognize that then you need to retire already old man.

  12. damage_control
    12:24 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Same ref missed blatant travel right in front of him with 1 second left in game.

  13. damage_control
    12:25 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Rafter you of course couldn’t tell even with the benefit of slow mo

  14. poecat
    12:35 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Anyone have any word on when a replay might happen. I irresponsibly forgot to set the DVR…..

    • ukbradstith
      12:47 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      The guy who does the replays was at the game, so it will be middle of the night sometime before they get it posted at U.K. Basketball live

    • poecat
      9:37 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      Thanks. I’m out of luck then. Hopefully it comes on again. One of those games I like to have on tap.

  15. UKBlue1
    1:03 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Say what you want, as of now we are horrible on defense & don’t think for a second Cal doesn’t know it & it’s driving him nuts hence the reason why the 1st thing he said in the post game: we have to get better. The bigs are slow, don’t communicate, don’t know yet how to rotate, don’t know angles, and are complete lost when it comes to rebounding. The older guys, if they haven’t gotten it by now they’re never going to get it. The one thing that will stop this team: 1. themselves & 2. Our Defense

    The missed walk on UNC at the end of the game right in front of the Ref & they put more time back on the clock; are they now just making up rules as they go along or what

    • Angelo
      2:08 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      Yeah, we need defense from 3,4 and 5. Cal will get Gabe and Bam up to speed, but I am not sure how much Briscoe will grow. We need KJ to step up big time.

    • Briscoe is already good on D. It’s just not physically possible for him to take up Wenyan and the other big’s slack and guard a 4 or a 5.

  16. wildcat2012
    2:03 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    You’re a dumbass nick who doesn’t understand basketball as a sport as a whole. Cals gameplan was tonlwt Jackson have a good game but shut down everyone else but you crappy ass coverage didn’t figure that out. Like come on, can we not get someone better and younger who knows what they are actually reporting about on KSR staff?

    • CATandMONKEY
      5:25 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      This, folks is why you do not drink and post.

    • EdC
      9:49 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

      Yea obviously Cals [sic] gameplan [sic] was tonlwt! Even a dumbass [sic] like you should understand basketball as a sport as a whole. Sometimes I can’t believe you [sic] crappy ass coverage.


    • THE William Hill
      2:01 pm December 18, 2016 Permalink

  17. 4everblue
    5:30 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    Can’t believe we haven’t seen the crying Jordan meme….

  18. 4everblue
    5:35 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    So Matt Jones predicted the game would be in the 80’s for both teams…..oops!

  19. Ridge Runner
    7:53 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    It’s the next day & Im still jacked

  20. buzzard
    9:15 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    What I like about Monk is his attitude. The young man just plays and lets his game do the talking. He just played one of the most incredible games in UK history, on giant stage with the entire country watching and he acted like it was just another game…like, “that’s just what I do.”
    That was a great basketball game from both teams.

  21. Aristocat
    10:02 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    I can’t bring myself to talk the usual smack to my coworker, who is a big UNC fan…both teams played a crazy good game that looked like a championship-worthy event, and I can only tip my hat to such an entertaining performance. Long road left until March, but man, what a fun ride!

  22. roundball fool
    11:28 am December 18, 2016 Permalink

    I agree with the last three commenters – what a great game and so glad it went our way at the end.
    March Madness-worthy!

    I like the improvement on the boards and the fight and hustle our Cats showed.