By LARRY VAUGHT
It was not the game most anyone expected, but it might turn out to be just what Kentucky needed.
The Wildcats played without starting point guard De’Aaron Fox, who was out with an illness. Reserves Sacha Killeya-Jones and Mychal Mulder were also ill and could not play.
Then UK spotted Georgia a 12-0 lead and threw in two fouls on Bam Adebayo in the first five minutes.
But after hearing coach John Calipari call for some physical and mental toughness, Kentucky found it. The Wildcats fought back, blew an 8-point lead late in regulation and then forced overtime with a terrific shot from Malik Monk with 8.1 seconds left. In overtime Kentucky took control and won 90-81 to snap it’s two game losing streak.
Monk was sensational in the second half. He hit seven 3-point shots and finished with 37 points on 10 for 21 overall shooting (7-for-11 from 3-point range) and 10-for-12 at the foul line. When UK needed a big shot, he made it.
“You have to give Kentucky’s team credit for competing their tails off and making big plays. Obviously, you have to give Monk credit. He made some guarded shots,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said.
“We held him to one basket in the first half and gave him some free throws in transition. He just got rolling. We did try different things. I am not faulting our kids. Their kid (Monk) made more plays than they did and did enough to win.”
Fox thought Monk made a contested shot to force the game into overtime and credited him rather than faulting his defense.
“We have respect for him. He is a great player. We knew tonight he might be super aggressive with the other kid (Fox) out. The second half we just could not find an answer,” Fox said.
Perhaps Isaiah Briscoe did as much as anyone to get UK going with his energy level after the sluggish start. He again made some questionable mistakes —six turnovers — but he had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. At the foul line he was 11-for-15 and UK needed them all.
After a scoreless first half, Adebayo finished with 12 points and five rebounds in just 22 total minutes.
Kentucky got seven points and six rebounds from Wenyen Gabriel and seven rebounds in 13 minutes from Isaac Humphries.
Dominique Hawkins had just one field goal, one assist and one rebound in 25 minutes, but he drew two charges in overtime and also got his only basket on a fast break drive to start the overtime.
“I was real proud of how our team competed today. Some times you can play your tail off and you have to give the other kid credit and move on. He just made the shot to get it to OT,” Fox said.