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Kentucky Basketball: 3 things to know from Wildcats beating Arkansas

The nitty gritty of Kentucky’s win over Arkansas.

Texas A&M v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It wasn’t always pretty, and the Cats were certainly not on their A game, but they still did enough to beat Arkansas with relative ease.

The first half was mostly one to forget as the Cats looked sluggish and sloppy, allowing Arkansas to control the game. At one point, the Hogs went on a 9-0 run and were taking it to Kentucky, and most of those points were uncontested layups.

But that was countered with a 12-0 run, which helped UK take a slim 41-38 lead into halftime, and from there, UK would take control before finishing off the Hogs by a 97-71 margin.

Here are the three things you need to know following the Cats’ 13th win of the season, which also puts them at 3-0 in SEC play.

Monk Struggles, Still Makes Impact

Malik Monk has spent most of his life in Arkansas, but he’s spending his one college season in Kentucky. This was the first and possibly only chance Monk gets to face the home-state Hogs,

Monk got off to a fast start with a two-point jumper, steal and assist in the first minute.

Passing was actually what Monk focused on early against the Hogs, and for good reason. He hit just one of his first four shots (0-of-3 from deep) and clearly was letting the moment get the better of him. It didn’t help that he had two fouls and didn’t see the floor much. He finished the game with just 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

But Monk deserves credit for helping limit Arkansas on the perimeter, especially Dusty Hannah, who burned UK for 20 points last year. He finished with six points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Monk was a big part of that, not to mention the hogs scoring just 33 points in the second half. Calipari has been stressing how Monk can be an elite defender, and we saw glimpses of that on this night.

Fox Steps Up

With Malik Monk struggling, De’Aaron Fox had to take on a bigger offensive workload for UK to stay afloat. He did so while managing his shot selection and not settling for long jumpers like he often will.

Fox finished the first half with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with three assists. Even though Arkansas’ transition defense was great, Fox still burned them several times in transition.

He kept up his aggressive play in the second half while keeping the Hogs on their heels.

Fox finished with a career-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with six dimes and six boards. He was easily the MVP of this game, and it was nice seeing him be the featured player on offense with Monk struggling.

Bigs Rotation Still Sorting Out

Coming into this game, UK was hoping to get more production out of the bigs not-named Bam. Between Wenyen Gabriel, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard, and Sacha Killeya-Jones, UK has been experimenting with various lineups at the 4 and spots, but no one has stepped up and taken hold of that spot next to Bam, not to mention who steps up when Bam is in foul trouble.

Despite starting, Gabriel didn’t help himself with two early fouls, which led to him playing sparingly. That allowed Willis to play more, and he responded with eight early points, as well as a pair of nice blocks.

He was far more assertive tonight than he’s been most games this season, so that was good to see.

Gabriel in foul trouble also allowed Humphries to play more, and he too responded with a nice showing in the first half. Humphries scored four points, grabbed two rebounds and actually made an impact in the paint, for once.

Even Mychal Mulder got some minutes at the 4 and actually did well while knocking down some threes. Even though Gabriel has been starting, Humphries, Willis and maybe even Mulder have earned some of his minutes after this game.

All said, this was a solid win by the Cats. Not great by any means, but it’s nice to see them win by double digits without Monk having a big game and Bam being fairly quiet.

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