Well, that was unexpected.
On a night when Kentucky’s forwards struggled mightily, Monk had to take 13 threes just to make three of them, and on a night when Isaiah Briscoe missed wide open layups, the worst thing happened: the Tennessee Volunteers shot way above their average. They were red-hot, and Kentucky struggled to defend or shoot well. The ‘Cats shot just 25% from the 3-point line, and Malik Monk scored 25 points but shot 3-13 from 3-point range and 7-19 in total. Really, the only good thing from this was that De’Aaron Fox was healthy and Kentucky only lost by 2 points despite playing in one of the toughest venues in the SEC.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
De’Aaron Fox seems healthy
His stats weren’t amazing, but Fox started and played more minutes than the bench rotation despite having foul trouble.
He was also able to put together some great athletic moves, which is a great sign for Kentucky going into the Kansas game. He ended the game with 17 points, going 4-9 from the field and 2-2 from 3-point range; he also had 4 assists. Points and efficiency combined, Fox was easily Kentucky’s best offensive player.
Kentucky had more inconsistency from the 4 spot
After a few good games from Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky looked as though they had some consistency at that position. Unfortunately, that was not the case tonight. Gabriel struggled mightily, going just 1-6 from the field, 0-3 from 3-point range, and 0-2 from the free throw line. He did produce on the defensive end, recording 2 blocks and 9 rebounds, all of them defensive. Derek Willis did no better, going 1-5 from the field and 0-3 from 3-point range. The slightest contribution from the stretch fours would have made all the difference in such a close game. Hopefully the team isn’t back to square one when it comes to the forwards. It looked as though Gabriel was going to take command of that spot. Hopefully he’ll take control of it again.
Tennessee shot extremely well
The Vols shot way better than anyone expected. On the year, they’ve shot 42% from the field and 33% from the 3-point line. Today, Tennessee shot 47% from the field and an even 50% from deep. The weird philosophy of “double-team random players” didn’t work all that well, but nonetheless, Tennessee was way hotter than you could’ve expected. It’s hard to stop that kind of hot shooting night.