Kentucky got its revenge against Tennessee last night in Rupp Arena with the blowout win fans have been craving for a month. You can say it was the Cats’ best performance since the South Carolina game when they beats the Cocks by 16, or some of you may even want to go further back to the 100-58 win against Texas A&M on January 3.
Either way, it was the dominant shellacking (that’s a word, right?) Big Blue Nation needed to see to feel confident about the team as March approaches. It took us back to some of those games we saw before Christmas, when the Cats were firing on all cylinders and had us chugging the Kool-Aid.
More from the game to start your Wednesday morning on the internet…
1. Malik Monk played a complete game.
We know he can score in bunches, but last night we saw the rare all-around good performance from Monk.
The career-high eight rebounds are all the talk in day-after conversations in offices around Kentucky right now, considering he had only eight rebounds in the previous five games. Monk said he was on a mission to hit the boards against Tennessee because he had been feeling the heat from his coach, who threatened to bench him for his lack of effort in that aspect of the game, and he was out to prove he can crash the glass as well as anyone. Monk admitted in his postgame interview that he had been guilty of trying to run out on fast breaks rather than fighting for boards, and that the staff had shown him tape of him missing opportunities to snatch the ball off missed shots.
And then, lost in the excitement of his rebounding, there is Monk’s defense and shot selection. Sure, the rebounding is great, but he improved in those areas too, at least for a night. It was a really complete game for the best scorer in college basketball and those 7-to-1 odds for AP Player of the Year could change if he continues to do more for Kentucky.
2. Calipari thought De’Aaron Fox was “unbelievable.”
Here are some of Coach Cal’s comments on the others guys…
Derek Willis: “Derek Willis was ridiculous and he spaced the court… I thought Derek played really confident today.”
Isaiah Briscoe: “Isaiah, six assists and no turns and–or six assists, one turn.”
Malik Monk: “He did good. He played better, he played within himself. He had a couple shots, the first shot he had was a better shot than the second and we’re working through it.”
Bam Adebayo: “I thought Bam was playing, he got tired. When he gets tired he stands behind people. We just got to see it and get him out and then get him back in.”
Dominique Hawkins: “He is a fierce competitor, he’s tough as nails, he will come up with — any 50/50 ball, he’s getting — and offensively he’s gotten better each year. So, yes, he’s like old reliable. You know you can go to him, he can play point guard, he can play off guard, if you want him to guard a big man he’ll go rebound… How about ball pressure? If we’re not pressuring, you put him in. He’s going to be energy. He’s going to be on the ball.”
Mychal Mulder: “Mychal we’re still trying to figure out. Now I started Mychal playing some four today. I hate to tell you, he did pretty good. He did pretty good at four. Like he fought the post, he went in and rebounded. So we’re trying to figure that situation out.”
3. Ball movement!
How pretty was the passing last night? On several occasions they made the extra pass around the perimeter to find a wide-open shooter or driving lane, which resulted in better shot selection and, in turn, a much better offense in the halfcourt.
UK’s assist-to-turn ratio looks pretty damn good, too: 17 assists, seven turnovers. And a couple of those turnovers came late in the blowout when cars were already leaving the parking lot.
Great night offensively by the team as a whole.
4. Butch Jones was in attendance.
Tennessee’s head football coach made the trip up from Knoxville to see the Volunteers take an L. But that’s okay because they’re champions in life, as Jones likes to say.
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We have another big announcement coming soon from our photos project.
6. De’Aaron Fox explained that new hairdo.
Fox told Mike Pratt on the Wildcat Wrap-Up, “My hair has a process of doing — trying to get it spiky like how I have it. And sometimes I’m just lazy, so I washed it, and my hair is really long so I just put it in a bun and kept moving.”
He doesn’t know if he’ll keep the look or not, but his mom told him to “do something with it.”
7. Did Malik Monk shoot an arrow?
I think he did, Big Blue Nation. I think he did.
8. Florida scored 114 points on Auburn.
Not a lot of defense played down in Auburn last night where the Gators beat the Tigers, 114-95. That only supports Bruce Pearl’s belief that Florida is the only real NCAA Tournament contender in the Southeastern Conference, although Kentucky did a good job of proving it is still a threat.
9. Taveion Hollingsworth broke Lexington scoring record.
Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Taveion Hollingsworth is your new all-time leading scorer in Lexington boys’ high school basketball history. The Western Kentucky commit scored 42 points in a heartbreaking, last-second loss to West Jessamine last night. He now has 2,422 career points, 14 better than the previous record of 2,408, set by Mike Allen at Bryan Station in 1989.
10. How in the world did LeBron James pull off this no-look, nutmeg assist?