By LARRY VAUGHT
No one questions whether Malik Monk can score. He’s led the Southeastern Conference in scoring most of the season — something only three other freshmen have ever done — and continues to dazzle UK fans and foes with his shot-making ability.
However, it is his decision-making that worries coach John Calipari more.
It seemed late in Tuesday’s 90-81 overtime win — Monk had 30 of his 37 points the second half and hit seven 3-pointers — that Monk went to Calipari in overtime suggesting a certain play be used. After he did that, he made a lob pass to Bam Adebayo for an easy dunk.
Monk joked he wants the “ball every play” but said Calipari told him at halftime he would get him the ball — and he did.
“I was just reading the defense (on the lob to Adebay),” Monk said. “Cal told me it was decision making. He’s on me like white on rice every day with decision making. So, I just made the right decision.”
Monk had to hit a difficult shot to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation and force overtime. He was going to inbound the ball before Georgia called timeout. When play resumed, Isaiah Briscoe was the one inbounding the ball and found Monk.
“What happened on the play out of bounds, we had — the way they were playing that zone, we were going to step Malik in after he threw it in, but I figured they saw it, called a timeout, and then we just put them on the court and had Isaiah who is a great passer, and we had a timeout,” Calipari said. “It’s something we put in. We had never run that before. And even though they guarded it great, he just made a tough shot.”
Either Calipari was confused or Monk was because he said UK runs the same play in practice.
“We work on it a lot every day and I was just able to knock down the shot,” the UK freshman said.
Monk knew if he got a shot he would make it — and he was right even though Georgia coach Mark Fox had no complaints about his team’s defense on that play.
“Cal told us before the game he was going to be positive, try to be positive the whole game. Everybody was calm. We knew if I could get the shot I knew I was going to make it, so that’s what happened. We just calmly called the play out,” he said.
Some thought he hit a 3-pointer that would have put UK ahead. Monk said he knew it was a two.
Monk credited teammates for setting him up for shots the second half no matter what defense, including a box-and-one, that Georgia used.
“I was just able to knock down the shots,” Monk said. “Actually, Zay figured that out. Zay said he was going to get me the ball and he did a great job finding me. I was just able to knock down the shots. I really didn’t say I was going, but every time he got me the ball, I was open, Cal told me to shoot, so I shot.”