By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky needed help, Malik Monk delivered in a big way the second half with 30 of his 37 points to lead Kentucky to an 90-81 overtime win over Georgia.
However, when UK fell behind 12-0 and then 19-4, it was sophomore Isaiah Briscoe who helped UK manage to stay in the game with his energy and leadership.
“I will tell you, he had six turnovers. What I’m saying, and what was bothering me, you guys know if you watch us, one more is a big term for us. If you’re open, you’re screaming it, one more. We put him in the middle of the zone so you can scream one more and he can find you,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game.
“We had no one speaking, so now he’s going like I must be open to the rim because no one’s open. But putting him in the middle, putting him in some pick-and-rolls, I was happy that making free throws, he missed a couple. But, you know, he was getting fouled going to the rim, and we just said, let’s put him in ball screens. Let’s get him to the rim. Let’s spread this court out. People didn’t want to leave Malik. ”
Briscoe was expected to be UK’s vocal leader this year, the kind of leader Kentucky had last year in Tyler Ulis. He was more vocal on the court, and players also seemed to be listening more to him.
“I told him a couple times, if you don’t tell these guys, I will, and I don’t want to do it. I want to coach less and have you do more. I want to do less, you guys do more. And I can’t do it because you can’t just let guys do their thing,” Calipari said.
“You’ve got to tell them. The guy’s not doing what we’re asking. You tell him. Make him listen. We went in the zone and he was on guys because we told him exactly where to slide and the guy stayed low and gave up the three, and he went over and ran right up to him and said, hey, man, now that’s good for me because it’s less that I have to do.
“ I want to be a cheerleader. I’m like having to coach every possession. It’s really hard. I’d rather sit there like last year and watch Tyler move people around. I mean, I’m trying to tell them, each game it’s got to be more about them and less about me, and I’ve got to try to be as positive as I can. There are sometimes you just can’t. I don’t care what you say, just there’s no way, but I’m trying.”
Briscoe went 6-for-15 from the field — with most of his misses close to the basket — and 11-for-15 from the foul line to score 23 points. He also had 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, and eight assists. That helped offset his eight turnovers, including two late in the game.
But he also played all 45 minutes because with freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox not playing because of the flu.
Briscoe knew that meant he had to be a better leader.
“Before the game, on his notes, he (Calipari) added new ones saying ‘more of y’all and less of me’. Meaning he wanted the players to coach each other and let him take a step back. Today, before the game, (assistant coach) Kenny (Payne) said, ‘Every time somebody shoots a free throw, go over and control the team’, and I did just that,” Briscoe said.
“It helped me with the flow of the game, and I felt more comfortable out on the court talking back and fourth with coach. I had to do what I had to do.”