That one was fun.
In what was undoubtedly the best college basketball game so far this season, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the seventh-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 103-100. An instant classic between two of college basketball's greatest programs, Kentucky won this thriller behind one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the program.
If you were so unfortunate enough to have missed the game, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from it.
There is good, there is really good, and then there is "you have got to be kidding me" good.
That was Malik Monk vs North Carolina. Despite all of the remarkable players to have played for John Calipari at Kentucky, none of them have ever had a forty point game. It was something that hadn't been done for Kentucky since Jodie Meeks in 2009. Monk waltzed into Las Vegas and left with 47 points scored.
Monk started out by scoring 15 of Kentucky's first 21 points out the gate, and simply did not let up. Playing 38 of 40 playable minutes, Monk shot 18-28 from the field and 8-12 from three point range. There was simply nothing North Carolina could do to stop him. The mass majority of the damage came from that automatic jumper that Monk has, with 14 of his 18 made field goals coming from outside of the paint.
What was even better than the 47 total points were the final six that Monk hit to win the Cats this game. It was a ferocious effort from an elite Tar Heels squad. With a clutch shot from Justin Jackson putting North Carolina up three with under a minute left, Monk drilled his 7th three of the game to tie it.
Then another clutch shot by Jackson put Carolina up two. Then, well, Monk did his best Aaron Harrison impersonation. Dribbling to the left wing, throwing a pump fake, then drilling another three-pointer to win it, Monk did the work of an absolute savage.
It is impossible to win a basketball game with one person, and even with Monk's ridiculous game, there were key contributions across the board. In the few minutes where Malik was not making everything, his running mate DeAaron Fox was there to keep Kentucky going. With 24 points, 10 assists, and two steals Fox was crucial in a competitive point guard matchup with North Carolina's Joel Berry who had 23.
The bad was on the defensive end, though it is in some ways unjust to throw the defense under the bus here. This Tar Heels group is better offensively than their team last year that made it to the National Championship, and even the best defenses will have problems trying to stop them from scoring.
Regardless, you just cannot let up triple figures in the scoring column and expect to win many games.The two stars for UNC combined to score 57 points, with 34 from Justin Jackson. The Tar Heels also went 21-28 from the free throw line, and really did everything in their power to win this game.
Even in a high-flying game like this, UK has to do more defensively. They finished with just two steals and four blocks. When is the last time a Calipari-coached team had that few defensive plays? And as fast as the game was, UK should have been able to force more than nine turnovers.
If Monk doesn't do what he did, then Roy Williams' team likely does leave Vegas with a win.
The ugly is given to the Kentucky's bench unit. Obviously, when you have a guy scoring nearly half of the team's points, the role players are not going to be stressed on as much.
Regardless, only having two bench players even take a shot is inexcusable. In retrospect, those were the only reserves to play more than ten minutes tonight. With a starting lineup consisting mostly of freshmen, a bench unit of veterans needs to be more cohesive in order to be successful in the long run.
This game had all the makings of an all-time great. A March Madness atmosphere in the middle of December, it is one that simply makes the winner and the loser better all together. Malik Monk's performance is one that all of Big Blue Nation as well as the entire country talking about for a long, long time.