A few hours of sleep later and I’m ready to chalk Kentucky’s somewhat infuriating 88-81 win over Mississippi State up as a road test passed. Yes, the game was hard to watch thanks to the absurd number of fouls and man, Kentucky looked bad during some stretches, but the team found a way to win by seven despite Malik Monk playing his worst game as a Cat, Isaiah Briscoe struggling, and Bam Adebayo being in foul trouble most of the first half. Let’s go over some leftovers before moving on with our Wednesdays.
1. Malik’s technical for pulling up on the rim reminded Calipari of Karl Towns vs. LSU in 2015
Calipari famously lit into Karl Towns after Karl chinned up on the rim while Kentucky was up 8 points at LSU in 2015. The Tigers took that momentum and scored 16 straight points, prompting Cal to do a mock fist pump on the sidelines. When asked, Cal said he was similarly frustrated with Malik last night.
“Again, we go into the AAU mode. When you’re playing all freshmen and sophomores, there’s a point in the game that they just think it’s like, ‘OK, watch this.’ You’re never going to be that team if that’s what your mindset is. I told them at halftime: ‘I’m taking you out.’ And I did. Not just him, I told the whole team.”
“I know we’re winning some close games where teams are coming at us and we’re finishing, but when you get a team down — (Monk) hung on the rim when we were up 18. Why would you do that? ‘There was a guy …’ No, no, there was no one near you. You chinned up. He had to call the tech. But it wasn’t just him.”
Personally, I thought that technical was pretty bogus, but if it gives Calipari a chance to make a point, it was worth it.
2. Oddly, Malik had one of the best shootarounds of the year yesterday
Monk didn’t play great, finishing with only 14 points on 5-14 shooting from the floor and five turnovers, which Calipari said was surprising because he looked great before the game.
“Malik didn’t really help us — well, he made some free throws down the stretch. But that was not one of his better games. And I’ll say this: He had a great shootaround today, maybe one of the better shootarounds I’ve seen, and that’s really unusual.”
3. With Monk struggling, De’Aaron Fox took over
De’Aaron finished with 21 points and basically took over the game late in the second half, scoring nine straight points when Kentucky was only up five with less than four minutes to go; however, as happy as Calipari was with Fox’s late game heroics, he’d like to see De’Aaron make his free throws (last night, he missed four).
“I just said, ‘You know what? Malik’s not playing as well as he’s played. He’s struggling.’ And Malik Monk struggles and has five turnovers, but he gets 14 points in a game he really struggled. So we just said, ‘Here you go, De’Aaron, go do your thing.’ Now, De’Aaron’s got to make free throws. Can’t have your point guard going 1 for 2 or 0 for 2. Just can’t have it. That guy’s gotta make free throws.”
4. ICYMI, here are the highlights
5. Suddenly the four spot didn’t look so bad
Wenyen Gabriel was the MVP of the night, building on a 16-rebound performance vs. Auburn with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal. Gabriel was a perfect 5-5 from the floor, including 3-3 from behind the arc. Look at ya, Wenyen! Derek Willis also stepped up his game, scoring 13 first half points, which also included three three-pointers. The four spot has flummoxed Kentucky all season, but last night, it was one of the strongest on the floor. That alone is extremely encouraging. Right, Cal?
“I’m proud of him,” Cal said of Wenyen. “I really am. And we all know: If he and Derek do what they did and Malik will give us — then all of a sudden …”
There’s your silver lining.
6. I can’t get over the Mississippi State fans chanting “overrated” while down seven
Look, judging by their chant sheet, which criticized Bam Adebayo for not taking any threes this season, we should have known Mississippi State students aren’t exactly basketball experts; however, chanting “overrated” at a team while you’re down seven is just embarrassing for us all.
Chanting overrated when you’re down by seven… ðŸ¤” pic.twitter.com/S7zT02L5Nw
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) January 18, 2017
7. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Mississippi State students were STILL chanting it after the game was over:
Seriously, SCOREBOARD, PEOPLE!
And yes, Vanderbilt did the same thing last week. While losing. At Malik Monk, who then drained free throws to seal the game. I’m all for the SEC being better at basketball, but can we help the fans be better, too?
8. Shoutout to Dominique Hawkins for hitting a huge, huge three
Dom only made two shots last night, but one of them came at a crucial point, pushing Kentucky’s lead from four to seven with 8:56 left. Hawkins’ three not only brought a 13-0 Mississippi State run to an end, it silenced an increasingly boisterous crowd at The Hump.
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) January 18, 2017
9. No one was more disturbed by the scuffle between Briscoe, Fox, and Quinndary than this little guy
Quinndary Weatherspoon shoved De’Aaron Fox after a foul, which Isaiah Briscoe took major offense to, leading to a bit of a scuffle and a double-technical. It was a tense moment, but no one was more worried than this little Bulldogs fan behind the basket:
It’s almost as though the kid saw Bam Adebayo approaching and knew what could happen. Bam’s a bad, bad man.
10. Calipari’s timeline for peaking went from one month to two after last night
On Saturday, Calipari said his team is one month away from where they need to be to make a postseason run; after last night’s scare, he bumped that timeline to two months.
“I thought we were a month away,” Calipari lamented. “We may be two months away.”
Is he concerned at all about that?
“Well then you’re basically saying their will is stronger than my will,” Cal said, smiling. “You know me pretty well.”