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Malik Monk’s 30-point second half lifts UK to victory

Malik Monk (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

I’ve seen some incredible scorers during my 42 years covering University of Kentucky basketball. But never have I seen one like Malik Monk.

The freshman guard exploded the second half Saturday in Rupp Arena with perhaps the best offensive half I have ever seen a UK player have.

He was 1-for-5 from the field in first half against Florida with five turnovers. In the 22-point loss at Florida he was 4-for-14. But in the second half he was dynamite. He had 19 points in the first 8:42 of the half and 24 points in the first 14:30.

Monk, who had 47 points against North Carolina earlier this season when he had 27 points in the second half, finished with 33 points — 30 in the second half — as UK beat Florida 76-66 to move into sole possession of first place in the SEC with two games remaining.

The Cats were without point guard DeAaron Fox (bruised knee) and the first half Bam Adebayo did his best to carry UK with six points and 11 rebounds in what ended up a 28-28 tie after UK fell behind 8-0 to start the game.

But the second half belonged to Monk. Kentucky got solid play from Derek Willis and Adebayo ended up with a double-double. Still, Monk was the star of stars with his fourth 30-point game of the season.

He hit 3-pointers under pressure. He drove and scored. He drove and bunk. He hit mid-range jumpers. He got to the foul line. He also did not have a turnover the second half.

Malik Monk (Vicky Graff Photo)

Monk finished the game 9-for-18 (5-for-7 on 3-pointers) from the field and 10-for-11 (he hit his final 10) at the foul line. He even found a way to dish out five assists, mainly to Adebayo for dunks.

“When he gets on a spurt like that, he’s amazing,” Adebayo said.

Monk was as engaged as any game this season. He talked on the court. He got on the floor for loose balls. He went to the boards and even though he had just three rebounds, he was so much more active inside than normal.

This likely was his next to last game in Rupp Arena but he certainly made it one to remember and kept UK in position to win the SEC title and perhaps become a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he didn’t tell Monk anything special at halftime other than get to the basket more.

“What happened to Malik, we were on him to drive, to get fouled. Don’t drive to release and throw some crazy thing, just try to get fouled. That’s why I grabbed him. We have been doing it all year and it’s harder to play that way and Florida’s an obviously a highly ranked team. They’re tough physically, they had won nine in a row, they were confident,” Calipari said.

“You’re not going to beat them shooting 3’sor fadeaways, you got to attack. If you attack, you’re going to get beat up a little bit, you’re going to get grabbed a little bit, you’re going to get hip checked some. I was really — we didn’t want to try to beat them shooting threes and I said it before the game. I said, if you think you’re going to beat these guys by shooting threes, you will not. You got to get to the glass, you got to get to the foul line, it’s how you got to play.”

6 comments

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  1. Mike

    Certainly didn’t see that coming after the disastrous first half.. It was a great comeback victory in a “must have” game, but we still need to find some consistency if we are to get into or go beyond the final 16. The 4 position is still a disaster. Humphries gets his usual 4-5 mins. of non productive offense. Wenyen is still an out of control, out of position player. Willis had some decent rebounds but if he misses 2 straight 3’s he checks out and is no where near where he needs to be to help this team. Mulder/Hawkins were 2-12 so not any offense there. We have got to have more than 3 players carrying the load. Great game for both Bam ad Monk. UF missed their big guy more than we did the Fox. Great rebounding effort by the team for the whole game.

  2. UKMANAGER

    As Cawood Ledford would rarely say “Monk has gone to war” it was a plaudit that was only given to the greatest of WILDCATS..Rupp had dismissed Linville Puckett in the 1950’s for sassing him as Puckett left UK he said to Coach Rupp “basketball at UK is not a sport ,it is like going to war” Since then that statement is the highest praise a UK player can receive..Congrats Malik you truly went to war…

  3. OldFan

    The first half was a disaster and in the second half, two players played terrific. Will take more than two players to get past the sweet 16. Still do not understand why Bam is being asked to defend a player 25 feet from the basket. Every time they tried this, the player would just go around him and beat him to the middle. Also, why isn’t Wenyen playing more between the free throw line out. That shot Humphries hit about 17 feet out is open all day against everyone they play, but no one is there to take that shot. Wenyen could have a field day with that shot and he is long enough to make defending it nearly impossible on the defense. Can you imagine Wenyen playing that area, catching a pass and then either taking the shot, dumping to Bam down low, or hitting an open shooter in either corner. Lot of options for a player that can hit that shot and I think Wenyen is good enough to get 10-12 minutes of doing just that.

  4. Larry Pup

    Big win, UK back on top in the SEC where they are supposed to be.

  5. TheProfessor

    First, UK was not out of the top spot in the SEC prior to beating Florida, it was tied with Florida in the top spot. Florida did hold the tie-breaker for the Tournament seed, but that is meaningless until they played their rematch.

    On the Monk issue, does any one know if any previous UK player has ever scored more than 30 points in a single half of a game? I checked the Meeks’ 54 point game, and he scored 26 in the first half and 28 in the 2nd half.

    Issel’s big games? Other Meeks big games? Any other player?

    1. Larry Pup

      Splitting hairs I know, but Florida had already beaten UK by 22, and even with identical records, had UK lost Sat at Rupp, Florida would have been the top team in the SEC right here at regular season’s end. The win was huge for Kentucky.

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