By LARRY VAUGHT
Think about this. North Carolina shot 53 percent overall from the field, 53 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent at the foul line. North Carolina got 44 points in the paint, including 18 second chance points. It got 19 points from bench players. And it made just nine turnovers.
Yet one of the more memorable performances in Kentucky basketball history by Malik Monk enabled UK to beat the Tar Heels 103-100 Saturday in Las Vegas.
Monk had 27 points — in the first half. He was 10 of 16 from the field, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range. He slowed down in the second half, but only slightly. He finished with 47 points on 18-for-28 shooting from the field and 8-for-12 from 3-point range, including the 3-point shot with 16 seconds left that gave UK a 101-100 lead.
“Malik was off the charts. Made three of his last four shots and they were big-time shots for them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said after the game. “He’s really good. I saw him put on a show at Peach Jam as a high school player and tried to recruit him. He put on a show. I thought we made him work for it, but hard to say you feel good about your defense when a guy gets 47.”
Monk smashed the UK freshman single-game scoring record of 35 points set by Terrence Jones and Jamal Murray. And get this — he did it in front of 47 NBA scouts at the game in Las Vegas who got to see him make spot-up 3-points, finish inside in contact and hit a variety of mid-range jumpers. His 47-point effort was the best by any Division I player this season.
He’s now had 20 points in seven of UK’s 11 games but none of the performances matched what he did Saturday on CBS-TV.
“I may have seen a performance by a freshman this good but I certainly can’t remember one. Just amazing,” CBS Sports’ Seth Davis tweeted.
“Best game I’ve ever witnessed from a UK player,” Larry Glover of LarryGloverLive tweeted.
Or how about this one from UK assistant football coach Lamar Thomas: “Booom !!!!!!! Boy I got to meet Monk !!!!!!that boy 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥”
Finally, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas may have put it best in this tweet: “Wow. Malik Monk. Damn.”
Monk had the sixth best scoring game in UK history. Jodie Meeks’ 54-point outing against Tennessee in 2009 is first. Dan Issel scored 53 and 51 in games in 1970. Cliff Hagan had 51 in a game in 1953 and Bob Burrows had 50 in 1956.
“The first half he was ridiculous,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said on CBS after the game. “They can’t guard him when he is going to the basket. He is playing better.”
What about that last shot?
“We figured he was going to pull up and shoot,” Calipari said.
Why not? He figured he could not miss.
“We ran a play and I made my first shot. I knew I would make the rest,” Monk said. “I was just able to knock down that last shot. We are young but we got a lot of fight and effort.”