Isaiah Briscoe racked up the second triple-double of the season and the third in the history of Kentucky basketball on Thursday night at Ole Miss. Malik Monk bounced back from a poor shooting performance against Louisville last week and added more highlights to his endless mixtape during his freshman season in Lexington.
There was a third member that really boosted the Wildcats to a 23-point beatdown of the Rebels to open SEC play, and that was Bam Adebayo.
Adebayo scored 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting (including eight dunks), grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots in the 99-76 victory for the ‘Cats to propel them to 11-2 (1-0) this season.
Briscoe and Monk received a lot of attention on Thursday night (as did De’Aaron Fox) as usual per teams that play against Kentucky, but the trio of guards realized that the 260-pound Adebayo can be a lethal weapon if utilized probably. (Just ask Anas Mahmoud of Louisville what happens when you get in Bam Adebayo’s way).
Just throw it at the rim
The guards — specifically Briscoe — understood that when they look to push and penetrate and defenses collapse, that opens the door for guys like Adebayo to make an impact.
Ole Miss tried to slow the ‘Cats down in the early going by showing them a 2-3 zone look; something that Kentucky sees quite often in half-court sets.
The best way to beat that zone look? Attack the middle and make the defense collapse. Briscoe did just that on a drive into, which sucked the defense into his drive and left Adebayo completely open for an easy lob dunk.
In this set, Ole Miss was able to set up the 2-3 again with some extended pressure, but the ‘Cats get the ball to Briscoe in the middle and good things happened again.
During the broadcast on ESPN2, Jay Bilas said, “It’s gotta be comforting as a passer to know that all you have to do is just throw it anywhere near the rim and Bam Adebayo is going to grab it.”
In this half-court look that resulted in another Adebayo lob catch (plus the foul), Ole Miss tried to show a 1-3-1 zone look this time. It obviously didn’t work.
When you give Isaiah Briscoe this much space to penetrate, he’s going to punish you every time. Ole Miss big man Sebastian Saiz tried to shut down Briscoe’s drive, but with nobody left to block out Adebayo, you see what happens.
It’s bad enough that the zone wasn’t working for the Rebels, but when you miss shots and let Briscoe run the floor in transition, the lobs are virtually unstoppable at that point.
Case and point:
If you’re keeping track at home, that’s five of Isaiah Briscoe’s 11 assists during his triple-double performance just off of lobs to Bam Adebayo.
Run, Bam, Run
This next play was “Peak Kentucky”, but the roles were reversed.
De’Aaron Fox pulls down the defensive rebound and quickly dishes to Isaiah Briscoe. It’s easy to pick up 11 assists when you’re throwing passes to a kid the size of Rob Gronkowski (but taller) in transition. Adebayo catches Briscoe’s lengthy pass and slams it home with ease to force an early timeout from Andy Kennedy.
It’s probably nice being John Calipari and having guards that can make the hustle plays defensively, while also possessing a big that can leak out and run the floor with ease.
(Oh, that’s five Briscoe assists to Adebayo of the 11 he had.)
Bad, bad, Bam
The ‘Cats had an ugly possession after the under-8 timeout in the half-court. Derek Willis tried to hit Adebayo in the post, but Bam couldn’t catch the ball cleanly and it almost resulted in a turnover.
The reason why it didn’t was because Willis and Adebayo both fought to keep the possession to reset the offense for Kentucky.
Once again, Briscoe looks to Adebayo. Bam re-posted, made a really nice step-through move for the easy bucket.
(Isaiah Briscoe assist to Bam Adebayo counter: 6.)
Briscoe would finish with six of his 11 assists to Adebayo, but surprisingly, the best assist to Adebayo didn’t come from him against the Rebels.
That honor went to Malik Monk.
After the win, Kentucky head coach John Calipari mentioned that Adebayo is getting better, but is still confused on the free-throw shooting woes that Adebayo has shown as of late.
“And still, I don’t understand the free-throw shooting because he is a better free-throw shooter than that, but the last couple games he’s like 2 for 10,” Calipari said.
In typical Calipari fashion, there’s always something to work on.
(He was right. Adebayo is 2-of-10 at the line in the last two games and 3-of-14 from the charity stripe going back to Dec. 11 against Hofstra.)
But, the Big Blue Nation and Calipari had to have been impressed with not only Briscoe and Monk’s nights at the office, but the dominance shown by Bam Adebayo in the conference opener.