Kentucky is moving on to the semifinals of the SEC tourney after capturing the elusive third win over one team with a win over Georgia. The Blue Mist has since moved from Bridgestone Arena to the mayhem of Broadway, but we have some takeaways to share before we join the party.
Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox were the offense. Briscoe and Fox combined for 40 of the Cats’ 73 points while taking almost half of the team’s shots. The offensive performance was especially terrific from Briscoe, considering he has been hearing criticism from fans for his poor offense and not fitting into the system out on the wing. Sure, he had a couple of turnovers, but he was exceptional in all aspects of the game outside of a small handful of mistakes. Great game by Briscoe in all facets. Give him the MVP trophy. Fox is runner-up.
Bam Adebayo and Derek Willis crashed the glass. Kentucky and Georgia tied for the game with 42 boards apiece, but high-fives are in order for the individual performances from Adebayo and Willis, who reached double figures in rebounding with 10 and 11, respectively. If Derek Willis is giving you 11 rebounds in a game, it’s going to be hard to sit him down because he is the only one on the team who can give you that plus the outside shot to stretch the defense. Wenyen Gabriel has done some good things throughout the season, but he might as well take a permanent seat if you’re getting rebounding and FOUR BLOCKS from Willis. And Kentucky is a scary team when he is doing that.
Malik Monk played his worst game of the season. In his first game since saying, “It’s bad news for every team coming up,” Monk scored a career-low two points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field. It was Monk’s second consecutive off-game, following last Saturday’s six-point outing at Texas A&M. Prior to the current two-game slump, the SEC’s Freshman of the Year had scored in double figures in all 30 games.
So what’s wrong? I know exactly what is wrong…
Malik Monk is not a morning person. Much like me, Malik Monk isn’t the best version of himself when that alarm clock goes off early in the morning, and that was the case today with Kentucky’s noon tip-off in Nashville. Kentucky also had a noon tip-off at Texas A&M, which tells me this little funk he is in is all due to the early start times.
Luckily, the solution is simple: get Malik Monk to a shoot-around. The rest of the team can skip shoot-around, as they did in Nashville, but Monk needs to get some shots up ahead of time. Calipari, if you’re reading this, wake Monk up around 4 am on Saturday, trick him into think it’s much later, and get him to the arena for his own personal shootaround. Kentucky ain’t winning another one with only two points out of him.
Dominique Hawkins tried to punch one. GET UP DOM! It would’ve been RIP Bridgestone Arena had Hawkins thrown that one down.
The defense looked great. Maybe the biggest and most encouraging takeaway from the quarterfinal game is the improvement of Kentucky’s defense. That wasn’t the same defense we saw back in January and early February. That wasn’t the defense that got picked apart, twice, by JJ Frazier and gave up 85 to LSU. That was a defense that looked ready to shut teams down and make a run in the tournament. It appears they have made a huge turnaround in both their execution and their mindset on the defensive side. Just in time, too.
Check out our photos from the game.
Two more wins from yet another SEC tournament championships. After that, six wins from the grand prize.
Let’s do this.