Well that was fun to watch. The Wildcats stomped the Michigan State Spartans 69-48 in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd at the Champions Classic. Malik Monk was a major standout in shooting the three, though the rest of the team struggled from deep. In addition, the Cats had a great defensive performance, and shut down star freshman Miles Bridges.
Here are some takeaways from the win.
Malik Monk can shoot
There was a lot of talk about Monk’s shooting ability coming into Kentucky. He didn’t show a ton of it in the first couple games, but he erupted tonight. He had 23 points on 8-17 shooting, and went 7-12 from the 3-point line. He led all players in scoring, and was the only person on either team to hit multiple 3-pointers.
That being said, this team is still really bad at shooting 3’s. Monk was the only Cat to make a 3, as the rest of the team went 0-10. Even with Monk’s 58% shooting percentage from deep, the team shot 31.8% from deep. The team as a whole has to improve, they can’t rely entirely on Monk for jumpers.
The defense was lockdown
This is one of the best defensive showings we’ve seen early in the season from a John Calipari team. Michigan State was limited to 48 points, shooting 32.3% from the field, 19.2% from the 3-point line, and 33.3% from the free throw line (they only had 9 free throw attempts). Additionally, not a single Michigan State player scored in double figures.
The Kentucky defense was especially hard on Miles Bridges, who had more turnovers than he did points (6 points, 9 turnovers). This Kentucky defense was the definition of lockdown.
Kentucky still got out-rebounded
Kentucky’s rebounding is a concern that has been made clear, specifically following the Canisius game when they barely won the rebound battle. They defied all logic by losing the rebound battle and still managing to blow Michigan State out, as the Spartans out-rebounded UK 45-40.
In this particular instance, the rebounding issues stem from the fact that Bam Adebayo was not on the floor as much as you’d like him to be. Foul troubles early persisted throughout the game, as he was sometimes physical to a fault. As a result, Cal had to bench his dominant post threat and play Isaac Humphries more, who was losing rebounds left and right at times.
If Kentucky can dominate regardless of the rebound margin, that’s great. However, eventually they’ll run into problems if the rebounding effort doesn’t improve. Adebayo needs to be on the floor more, and the other bigs need to go after the ball and be assertive.
Kentucky has to be the best transition team in the nation
There’s just too much speed, strength and athleticism to tell me otherwise. De’Aaron Fox can blow past anyone, Malik Monk can put people on posters, Dominique Hawkins can jump out of the arena, the list goes on. Every player in the rotation has freak athleticism, and shows it on a nightly basis.
Isaiah Briscoe recovered from a rough first half
Briscoe’s first half featured several of his shot attempts being blocked. After dropping a contested layup at the halftime buzzer, he was able to turn the whole thing around.
Briscoe went on to score 21 points, which ties a career high he set against Canisius on Sunday. He shot 8-18, and showed remarkable improvement at the free throw line, as he made all 5 of his free throw attempts. He still struggled from the 3-point line, as usual, going 0-3 from deep. However, the form on his jumper looks much better, and he looks confident taking the shot.