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RECAP: With Fox out, Malik Monk took over and Kentucky found a way to win


If you had told me Kentucky would have beaten Florida by ten without De’Aaron Fox, I would have called you an optimist.

If you had told me Kentucky would have beaten Florida by ten halfway through that first half, I would have worried about your sanity.

Against all odds, Kentucky dug deep and found a way to rally from a 12-point first-half deficit to beat the Gators 76-66 to move into sole possession of first place in the SEC. Bizarrely enough, the things that have haunted the Cats so far this season were the reason they won; Kentucky dominated the boards, outhustled Florida in the second half, and rode the back of Malik Monk, who scored 33 points, 30 in the second half. Bam Adebayo was a force in the middle, scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds for his second straight double double. Dominique Hawkins may have only scored three points, but he did everything else, pulling down six rebounds, dishing out four assists, snagging two steals, and infusing the team with the heart and hustle we’ve been looking for all season. With Fox out, Dom not only kept the ship steady, he pulled it nicely into the harbor.

Barring collapse, Kentucky will be the #1-seed in the SEC Tournament, meaning they’ll play at 1 p.m. that Friday afternoon, ensuring a happy night on Broadway for the BBN. Really, today couldn’t have been better.

Let’s break it down.

Admit it: you thought they were going to lose in the first half

De’Aaron Fox confirmed speculation that he wasn’t going to play when he came out of the tunnel for intros in street clothes. That sinking feeling just got worse when Florida jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first half. Kentucky couldn’t buy a shot and looked totally out of sorts, letting the Gators jump ahead by 12 seven minutes in.

Then, an odd thing happened: even though Kentucky continued to struggle offensively, they fought back, clawing back to take the lead with seven minutes left in the first half and going in to the locker room tied with the Gators at 28. Despite shooting only 28.6%, committing 12 turnovers, and going the last seven minutes of the half without a field goal, Kentucky stayed in the game because of toughness and rebounding, mostly from its supporting cast of seniors. All they needed in the second half was offense.

Malik Monk took over in the second half

When his team needed it the most, Monk put in the best second half performance in the Calipari era. After scoring only three points in the first half, Monk scored 30 in the second off 8-13 shooting, 4-4 from three, and 10-11 from the free throw line. As we’ve seen a few times this season, Monk just got in the zone and couldn’t miss.

“He took the game over. It was amazing. It was probably the best performance against us this year,” Florida coach Mike White said of Monk afterwards.

“Oh, he got 30 in a half?” Cal said when asked about it after the game. “No wonder when I got on him about a couple bad shots he looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t know he had 30 in a half. So, good for him.”

Bam looked good for the second straight game

Bam got his second straight double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, looking more and more like the force in the middle we all expected him to be. There are still times when he just needs to dunk it, but for the most part, Bam was stellar, especially on the boards. In the past two games, he’s had 40 points and 30 rebounds. Has Bam turned the corner?

“I hope so,” Cal said. “I hope so. Had a smile on his face, we did some things different to go at him where we’re saying, look, we’re either going to go at Malik or we’re going to go at Bam and then we’re going to play off that. We’re not going to try to make this fancy, let’s just do it. I like how we played when you’re one man down.”

In a game with a lot of telling stats, here’s one: Monk and Bam accounted for 42 of UK’s 48 2nd half points. This connection between the two was definitely a highlight:

After getting dominated on them in Florida, Kentucky owned the boards

Maybe the most eye-opening stat of the day? After getting outrebounded by Florida 54-29 in Gainesville three weeks ago, Kentucky dominated the boards this afternoon 48-30. That’s nearly a 40-rebound swing, and a critical component to Kentucky’s win. Right, Cal?

“This team outrebounded us by 25 rebounds a month ago. I think we got them by 18 today,” Calipari said before complaining about how Wenyen’s still going up for rebounds with one hand. (If you haven’t figured it out eight seasons in, he really hates when his players do that.)

Bam led the way with 15 rebounds, followed by Derek Willis with nine (!), Isaiah Briscoe with eight, and Dominique Hawkins with six. Heck, even Malik Monk had four. What did Monk attribute Bam’s big day on the boards to?

“Cal’s been making us run when he doesn’t rebound,” Monk said. “We don’t like running.”

Fair enough.


Dominique Hawkins brought the hustle

Monk was other-worldly, Bam was crucial, but to me, Dominique Hawkins was a huge reason Kentucky was able to win today. Mychal Mulder actually started in place of De’Aaron Fox, but Hawkins quickly came in and took control, dishing four assists to only one turnover. He played a team-high 37 minutes and never took a second off. Dom may not be an NBA lottery pick, but right now, he’s playing with more heart than anyone on the team and thankfully, his toughness was contagious this afternoon.

“I thought Dom was outstanding again,” Cal said. “We just got to get a team full of guys really locked into what we’re doing.”

Was this “the moment” we’ve been waiting for?

I was thinking about this last night, and each of Calipari’s teams (2012-13 group withstanding) has had a “moment” for fans to rally around: 2010 – John Wall dance; 2011 – Jorts bouncing the ball off Jared Sullinger’s chest; 2012 – everything; 2014 – Aaron Harrison’s great story; 2015 – all of it; 2016 – Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray’s bow and arrow. So far, I’ve been really worried this group hasn’t had that. Was Calipari embracing Monk in the second half a good start?


I hope so.

Will Fox be back on Tuesday?

Kentucky found a way to win without him, but will De’Aaron play on Tuesday? Calipari said he didn’t know, and that had Fox played today, he would have been at about 70%.

“If he had played he would have been 70 percent. So what I’m saying is, I knew that. I really wanted us to play the game without him. For us and for him. And now it’s like, okay, but we made runs in the middle of the game with Isaiah on the bench. He wasn’t in. And so that’s good for this team to know, you could have foul trouble, you could have an injury, something could happen, you can still win if you’re playing the right way.”

Even when Fox is 100%, Calipari warned him that he better being the hustle.

“But I like the fact that we fought and I said, and for De’Aaron Fox, hey, man, when you come back, you better be to the level of these guys fighting. That’s where you need to be.”

For now, puff your chest out a bit and go celebrate

Because Kentucky just won a really tough and important game without their star point guard, and for the first time in a long time, they looked like a group that could make a run in March. Maybe even April if Monk stays hot.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

51 Comments for RECAP: With Fox out, Malik Monk took over and Kentucky found a way to win

  1. runningunnin.454
    6:14 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    Actually, it’s impossible to lose in the first half…Ha Ha.
    Bam and Malik were awesome; the seniors played well, especially the Kentucky boys. And,
    Awwwwwwwwww, Duke goes down again.

    • runningunnin.454
      12:29 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      And so does Gonzaga to BYU…..Goliath no more.

    • UK Big Bored Update
      8:06 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Groin Saga…..GoonZaga…….Gone Sega.

  2. snl1960
    6:19 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    Why is Bristol acting like Grayson allen

    • catsarerunnin
      6:22 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      Well I guess “Bristol” can’t help himself…

    • EdC
      7:59 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Because everybody knows that most of those sports guys whose HQ is in Bristol, CT are Duke fans? What does that have to do with UK basketball though?

  3. snl1960
    6:28 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    He is a better ball player than that and I like his game.

  4. snl1960
    6:29 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    Sorry Briscoe

  5. snl1960
    6:31 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    He is a better ball player than that and I like his game. Meant “Briscoe. ” My keyboard does what it wants sometimes

  6. RexRox
    6:40 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    And we leap-frogged loserville in the Pomeroy rankings. We are now #6; they are #7.

  7. TBW3011
    6:43 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    Don’t play Fox Tuesday. Another game of him getting to watch teammates guard people can’t hurt him. Hopefully he and Cal noticed we can afford to sit him next time the opposing PG is on their way to a career high. Great effort and win today by the guys.

  8. maximumscott
    7:53 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    7-0 when Monk has 25+. Its safe to say that when he is hot noone can guard him. Hearing Mike White say that was priceless and makes me happy he is on our team.

  9. Luether
    8:48 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    A gutsy performance by Monk and the seniors without our best player…

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:08 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Luether February 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink | Reply
      Like It (0)
      Don’t think we win without Fox. He’s the straw that stirs the drink…

    • TBW3011
      4:07 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Best player. Lol.

  10. me101
    8:57 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    Don’t forget Bam 18 and 15. 40 and 30 last two game.

    • syrin23
      11:54 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      I think he heard from the NBA scouts he needs to learn to rebound

    • catsarerunnin
      6:42 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Yes I’m sure you’re right….

  11. Jiminy Crickets
    9:05 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    I said it Wednesday after the Missouri game, and I will say it again tonight. This team, right now, is better off without Fox. While averaging 15 points a game, Fox gives up an average of 25 points a game to his opponent. Let me say this, I’love Fox and I think without question he is the best overall basketball player on this team. However, until he decides to put an effort forth on the defense end, this team will be better off with him not playing as much. With that said, if Fox decides that he would like to play defense, he is one of the best players in the nation. But people continue to forget his man has a career night every game he plays. This is not coincidental

    • Jiminy Crickets
      9:07 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      And for the first time all season, Calipari said the same thing tonight.

    • catsarerunnin
      9:55 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      They need Fox if they are going to make a deep run.

    • Luether
      10:11 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      Don’t think we go very far in the tournament without Fox. He’s our best player…

    • ukcamel
      10:28 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

      Don’t get ahead of yourself dude, Fox makes us better 10 times out of 10.

    • syrin23
      12:54 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      You know when he changed? It was after the game he fouled out. He stopped being as aggressive about getting steals. He’s always been terrible about getting in front of his player who usually gets 5-10 layups a game.

    • TBW3011
      4:11 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Not sure we’re better without him, but the rest is 100% true. His defense is atrocious. We are better without him on that end no doubt. On offense, in a half court game him being out isn’t missed. Up and down game and he IS missed.

    • UK Big Bored Update
      8:18 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Before tip off, I expected Hawkins to really step up against the Gators. This team requires better play from him. Willis was blue collar decent but still not realizing his potential. While these Kentucky boys are not the stars, they are key. KENTUCKY needs big games – out of both – all the time and especially now.

    • AGSlater
      3:44 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      This is weird. You had input instead of taunting the post. We need Fox.

  12. UKFaninNY
    11:56 pm February 25, 2017 Permalink

    I said this before and everyone laughed and I’ll say it again…

    UK needs Monk to have a Danny Manning like run through though the tourney for them to have a chance

    He’s by far their best player and will carry or kill them

    • chris43
      1:25 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Bingo! All this Fox talk…..he’s talented BUT Malik Monk is by far their best player! He’s the most talented offensive player I’ve seen at UK in ages! He can shoot, he can drive, he can create his own shot, and he moves well without the ball. He has the entire package offensively and that’s quite rare. Cal must have gave him the “green light” in the second half because he was aggressive as hell and flat out went off! Once he gets going there is no stopping him. I’ll be glad to have Fox back BUT I hope Cal makes it very clear that Monk is our number one option and we’re going to ride him with Fox as 2 followed by Bam.

    • Angelo
      2:14 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Live by the Monk, Die by the Monk. We have known that since December 21…

    • catsarerunnin
      6:44 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah it’s easier when a team doesn’t have that one great player…

    • UK Big Bored Update
      8:26 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Putting any team on the back of Fox is putting all the eggs into one basket. Coaches have to mitigate the risks of underperformance with plans B, C, D… infinitum.

  13. GroundControlToNumber9
    12:12 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    Gonna step back from Cal criticism at this point.

    He earned a pass… regardless of his desire to help the players that don’t help themselves (Briscoe, Harrisons) in the end the only way someone gains confidence is to do the hard work themselves.

    Fox gets to decide if he adds himself to this list of people Cal needs to baby so they can have confidence in their shot. Fox can stay in his lane and look like John Wall to NBA scouts or he can take way too many outside jumpers and look like the second coming of Briscoe.

    Oh and Fox needs to play John Wall lockdown defense if he even thinks he can have people see him as that type of a player.

    Malik Monk is a special player.

    Bam Adabayo got his diet right.

    We are ready to make a run… and Cal gets a pass.

    But next game we play… if he has Fox & Brickso in the game at the same time… and our offense goes out the window (because the defense is leaving Fox & Briscoe wide open shots) I will be looking at John Calipari to make the move. It’s really not fair to Bam.

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:21 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      I’m just going to come out and say this and I think everyone will agree: you’re an idiot and miserable human being.

    • TBW3011
      4:14 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      He’s actually pretty spot on. He wasn’t negative at all. Just stated the obvious.

    • 4everblue
      6:44 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      No I think UK Big Board Update was spot on, GroundControlToNumber9 IS an idiot and a miserable human being. Post your coaching resume GroundControl….what? Don’t have one? By the way Duke lost again and now have 7 losses, I guess their fans are calling for K’s head too…..I hate Duke but I bet their fans are more loyal than some of you idiots on here.

    • Big DAWG Loggin
      8:47 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      GC2#9 has a valid point. There’s no Golden Goose on this team; there’s no Kyle Macy on this squad. KENTUCKY has no Twin Towers. Yet while this team has a ton of talent, of course not every player will be ‘on’ every night. Everyone on this team, that plays with regularity, has the chance to be special every night. Sometimes it’s BAM, or Briscoe, or Monk, or Gabriel, or Fox. But the key is this: KENTUCKY has got to have bigger games – from here on – from Mulder and Hawkins and Humphries and Willis. Especially Hawkins and Willis.

    • AGSlater
      3:46 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Not a bad post. Knew those 2 would bash this one

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:35 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Everyone bashes your mom.

  14. FlySoup
    1:05 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    That paragraph about each year’s “moment” is complete garbage. Do you even read what you typed? Really doesn’t have a place in this article and most of your moments listed are not even a singular moment. Did you have a word count you needed to get to or something?

    • playmorezeppelin
      8:14 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Jesus man. Take it easy. Its just an article lol

    • roundball fool
      9:55 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Lighten up Frances.

    1:43 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    You know I figured something out in this game. I think I like Malik at the one. The game comes pretty easy to him at the lead guard and he is the best lob passer we have. He extends the D because they have to pick him up early do to his shooting range, We made the big runs with Dom, Mulder and Malik running the one. He made a case to be the back up point guard when Fox is out. Also Bam is looking Dominant out there, just going after every rebound, “he is going to get a GM fired for passing on him”. We need to get Wenyen on track and Fox back and I think they are going to be okay, for the first time in a while I feel good about the team. Especially since tournaments are played in NEUTRAL sites and I think this is a good NEUTRAL site team.

  16. 4everblue
    6:38 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    Huge win for cats and no idiotic remarks from AGSlater……what shock!

    • catsarerunnin
      6:46 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Oh Slater loves his Cats. He just expects perfection from them…every game….every season.

    • AGSlater
      3:47 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      I posted on the posts right after we won. You are late to the party

    • catsarerunnin
      4:44 pm February 26, 2017 Permalink

      Better late than never.

  17. damage_control
    8:28 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    What? Not even a mention of Drew making an appearance rocking his NO Pels shirt on the CBS broadcast?

  18. Big DAWG Loggin
    8:58 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    Initially, KENTUCKY’s bread and butter was the fast break – which has been MIA.
    Gabriel and Willis were especially good at the quick outlet pass with Monk, Fox, and or Briscoe driving or feeding BAM underneath. While it’s tremendous when it happens, we can’t rely on Monk bailing us out & getting 30 per half or game. Good Defense + Fast Breaks = Wins.

  19. Bigblueoo1
    9:02 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    If Duke can manage one more loss they can move up to a one seed

  20. roundball fool
    10:00 am February 26, 2017 Permalink

    Nice work Tyler. It used to bother me that we might have to depend on Monk to win games for us. Now maybe Bam can shoulder some of that. Fox simply makes everybody on the team better. We need everybody healthy and playing all out to win. It’s almost tournament time and a win is a win. The Cats showed great fight in getting back and winning the game. I do hope this is the turning point. I’ve been hoping for that for awhile. Go Big Blue!