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The Moment Malik Monk Didn’t Look Like Malik Monk


Volume Scorer

Those two words are the best best way to describe Malik Monk’s game.  The freshman phenom from Lepanto, Arkansas has never disappointed.  Kentucky has seen many great scorers, but Malik Monk gets hotter than characters on NBA Jam, achieving unprecedented awesomeness in Las Vegas against North Carolina by dropping 47 clutch points for the win.

A steamrolling locomotive who’s never seen a bad shot, Monk gets his.  In high school, he never stopped shooting.  John Calipari said he’d get tired watching him shoot so many shots. “How is he raising his arm again?”

They aren’t always falling, but they eventually will, just ask Florida (30 points after halftime), Georgia (31 after halftime) and South Carolina (30 after half).

Sometimes Monk takes bad shots, until they go in.  The King of “No, No, No! YES!” shots, he might be a better shooter with a hand in his face than left wide open. To enjoy his greatness, you must learn to trust that Monk will be fine.  Just give him some time and the once-in-a-generation scorer will eventually figure it out.  In the meantime, he’ll throw in a few gym-clearing, SportsCenter Top Play dunks.

Until he got to the last game of the season.

For the first time in his Kentucky career, he didn’t reach double figures.  After scoring just six points at Texas A&M, he only scored two points in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.  Since the Texas A&M game, he’s hit just 5-of-26 threes (19%).

Many described it as a slump.  Monk took question after question after question after question after question after question after question after question after from reporters about his shooting slump, but stayed the course.

He failed to hit a three-pointer against NKU, but I was not worried.  “Shooter’s shoot,” and Monk continued to look like Malik Monk, his shots just weren’t falling.

Then, he didn’t look like Malik Monk.



Monk had a two-step advantage on Shamet and two other Shockers.  This is the part where we hold our breath, anticipating the death of an opponent with a poster that would make Michael Jordan proud.  Even if Shamet’s life didn’t end with a dunk, Monk’s high-flying acrobatics guaranteed an amazing, finesse finish.

We didn’t see either.  We saw Malik Monk hesitate.  The dude best defined as a “dog” hesitated.  Instead of fight, we saw flight, and a missed layup.

It got worse.


Two possessions later, Monk got the ball in a much more comfortable position: off a staggered screen with an incoming ball screen from Derek Willis.  The pop from Willis for a three would ensure a wide open lane, best described as “playtime” for the prolific scorer.

He hesitated, again.

Drawing Bam Adebayo’s defender, instead of taking and making a soft floater down the middle of the lane or dunking on his face, Monk opted for the floating lob to Bam, a pass Adebayo confused for a shot.

For the first all season, this question was valid: “What is wrong with Malik Monk?”

Malik Monk doesn’t hesitate.  He goes 100 percent.  Like a bull in a china shop, Monk’s eye are always on his favorite prize: buckets.  But that didn’t happen at the start of the Wichita State game.

Malik Monk didn’t look like Malik Monk.

The game against Wichita State quickly turned into a knock-down, drag-em-out, defensive struggle.  With refs opting not to use their whistle against contact inside, at one point in the first half six minutes past before a whistle was blown and subs could enter the game.

The conditions for Monk to work out of his funk were not ideal.  Still, Malik Monk found a way to be Malik Monk, but differently than Kentucky fans had ever seen him.

The second half grind gave neither team a decisive offensive advantage.  With his shot still not falling, Monk used his skills elsewhere.  A block, a defensive rebound, an assist, then another.  Finally, Monk found a way to make a shot: at the free throw line.  The two made free throws with just under six minutes to play were just what he needed.

The Cats looked like they might fall apart.  After building a significant lead, De’Aaron Fox fouled Shamet on a three-pointer.  The mistake shook the momentum the Shockers’ way, now trailing by just two with 2:30 minutes to play.

Malik Monk proved he’s still a killer.


Monk didn’t need any space.  He didn’t need to hit a bunch of shots.  He just needed to hit one.  He was not finished.

The Shockers were not fazed, immediately answering with a three of their own.  Fox responded with a ferocious dunk.  The game was turning into a back-and-forth offensive battle…or so we thought.

After Monk’s jumper rattled around the rim, Wichita State needed a bucket to take the lead.  Monk couldn’t do enough, we thought, until he iced the game.


Monk followed the incredible blocked shot by nailing two clutch free throws, the final points of the game.  The volume scorer helped get the win not be scoring, but with assists and defense, as noted by Tom Leach on the radio broadcast after Monk’s block.

“Those two things you mentioned might pull him out of the slump he’s in,” Mike Pratt said.

Even if it doesn’t, we saw Monk transform into a complete player against Wichita State.  His shot wasn’t falling, but it didn’t keep him out of the game.  De’Aaron Fox got layups by driving at Monk.  He made defensive stops and eliminated second chance opportunities.  He made Kentucky better without scoring 20 points.

They say the Cats can’t keep winning without 20 points a game from Monk, but I think the Cats can keep winning with this version of Malik Monk.

Article written by Nick Roush

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

17 Comments for The Moment Malik Monk Didn’t Look Like Malik Monk

  1. tampawildcat73
    8:41 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    Monk was fouled very hard on that layup. An arm to the head at the moment he was releasing the ball. He ducked to avoid the worst of it. Otherwise, he might be injured.

  2. unbridled
    9:16 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    Not normally a huge fan of nick roush’s writing…but this article is phenomenal and spot on.

  3. robuk
    9:33 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    Monk needs to have a good game. Not a great game just a low pressure good game. The key to beating ucla is found in two words.
    Hawkins and Willis
    These two “not one and done” Ky veterans must play as good or better than they have been lately and we win! And if they keep it up we will get #9. People can argue this all day long but if we lose it will not be Monk’s bad game.

    • unbridled
      11:05 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

      I love monk…but he needs to make some shots. Period.

    • chrisg18
      8:23 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

      As good or better? I would argue Hawkins has played as well as he can possibly play lately. He’s been as good as any of our other guards. Willis has played pretty well too. If he could just get his shot to fall a little more, he would be clicking on all levels.

  4. willyjhopuky
    10:34 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    malik monk is a great player period. He will be ok.

  5. BTownUKFan
    10:45 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    I would argue that the average for Monk, Dom, Willis, Bam and Mulder together for the last 8 games is very similar to the average of those 5 for the first 22 games. Defenses have been focusing on Monk which has opened it up for the other four to score more. Yes, he’s missed some shots but overall the others have picked up their scoring the last 8 or 10 games. Should UCLA decide a normal man to man Monk will get his 20+. The other thing teams are doing is running back as soon as their guy shoots, this has cut back on our run outs. As we advance and play better teams they may feel like that is not necessary which will be a mistake and provide more opportunities for fast breaks.
    GO CATS !!

  6. chris43
    11:52 pm March 22, 2017 Permalink

    He’s by far my favorite player on the team. In fact he’s even on my all time favorite list. I simply love watching Monk play! My here’s not a better stretch of games for him to get hot in so here’s to hoping he flat out lights it up in the coming weeks for 25+ a game. I’d love a 40+ point game against UCLA. How great would it be for Monk to light it up with a UK win while Lonzo is cold a ice. Maybe that’s finally shit Daddy Ball up…but I doubt it. Looking forward to Friday! GO BIG BLUE!

    • Ridge Runner
      5:22 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

      I like him too Chris, -one of mine as well.

  7. Angelo
    2:11 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

    Nice work Nick. Cal is a genius and Cal knows superstars…

    • Angelo
      2:14 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

      He knows young superstars before they develop PTSD….

  8. StuckinLville
    3:04 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

    As long as Bam, Derek, Dom, Fox, and Briscoe keep playing like they are, I don’t think Monk needs to score a single point. Briscoe just needs to keep driving like he has been and keeping down on the turnovers, Fox has been shooting the ball really well, Bam is finally being the beast we thought he could be, and our seniors are leading by example. But even if Monk isn’t shooting the ball well, he is finally driving and scoring other ways.

  9. Ridge Runner
    5:21 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

    Nice article, Nick

    Gonna need everyone involved and on their game this weekend.

  10. Mathlete
    8:23 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

    Monk, like a lot of great shooters, thrives on routine. He was definitely off his routine because he didn’t practice last weekend due to a lingering bruise from the Arkansas game (seriously, thanks Arkansas for beating the hell out of our players because you’re sore losers).

    If he’s practicing this week and back in his routine, UCLA is going to struggle to cage him as he goes full beast mode. He knows he’s due for a big game, and between UCLA and probably UNC he has the stage set for him.

  11. chrisg18
    8:27 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

    Even Cal would disagree with you Nick. He said he doesn’t think UK can advance any further unless Monk starts hitting again. I would agree. There’s no way we beat UCLA if Monk is ice cold. They are just too good offensively. We will have to score (a lot) more than 65 points to win.

    • maximumscott
      10:18 am March 23, 2017 Permalink

      We scored 65 against a top 10 defense in WSU. UCLA ranks 80th. Analyst should focus more on if UCLA can stop UK. UK has proven they are up to the challenge, but UCLA just let Kent State score 80 pts. Look at past UClA games and youll see that they either 8-10 pts winning or 8-10 pts losing. With 3-5 minutes for UCLA a game has never been tight and game pressure has never been felt by UCLa. If this game gets close and down to the wire. UK has the advantage on closing out the game. I honestly think it will be a great game and close for 70% of the time but I think we will turn them over more as the pressure mounts and we fo up 7-8 pts with 5 minutes left and we end up winning by 4.

  12. [email protected]
    1:46 am March 24, 2017 Permalink

    Great article, Nick!! I pray Monk is ON, & EVERYONE ELSE!!! Defense, which the Cats are a LOT better than (ucla)…REBOUNDS…… AND … last but NOT LEAST…… FREE THROWS!! Cats gotta make ’em to WIN!!
    #GOCATS #wannagototheelite8