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Kentucky Basketball: 5 more thoughts and postgame notes from win over Monmouth

Takeaways from Kentucky’s 93-76 victory over Monmouth, plus the postgame notes.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky vs Monmouth-NJ Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky made the trip to Madison Square Garden to play a struggling Monmouth team coming off back to back loses. Kentucky played a fairly efficient game and came away with a 93-76 win, moving to 8-1 on the season.

The first four minutes saw the Cats struggle to get anything going offensively as they only had a 9-7 lead at the first TV timeout. However, the Cats turned it on and exploded for a 24-10 lead at the under 12 timeout. Kentucky carried that momentum and built a 23-point lead 54-31 over Monmouth at halftime.

The second half was much like the first, as Kentucky maintained a solid lead throughout the final 20 minutes. Finally, the Cats were able to get a big lead and not allow the opposing team to climb back into it as the game came to a close. Kentucky showed improvement and growth as the schedule really begins to heat up.

Here are five more thoughts on the win:

Hamidou Diallo has found his rhythm

At the beginning of the season, Diallo was struggling to score the basketball consistently, mostly because he was settling for jump shots, which is not his strong point. Now, Diallo has figured out that he needs to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Because he’s done this more, his performance has been greatly improved. He had 19 points in each of the last two games and had a homecoming performance of 23 points against Monmouth.

PJ Washington finally had a breakout game

When the year started, we expected PJ Washington to be a beast right out of the gate. However, for the freshman that didn’t go as planned and he has struggled for most of the young season. We all knew he is a good player, but we just hadn’t seen it on the floor until this game. Washington poured in 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Also, he had a good game defensively, forcing Monmouth to change their shots causing missed contested looks. Hopefully, this game will get PJ going and he too will find his rhythm like Diallo has.

Turnovers remain an issue

For the entire season to this point Kentucky has had a problem that keeps getting mentioned and that is turnovers. The Cats have struggled to hold onto the ball this season and are making unforced turnovers. Kentucky gave the ball away 18 times in this game and as the season moves forward they will have to limit turnovers or else they will drop some games because of it.

Kentucky did its job on the glass

Coming into the game Kentucky was a much longer team than Monmouth and needed to take advantage of that size difference on the boards. That is exactly what the Cats did as the outrebounded Monmouth 47-33 for the game and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.

Defense keeps progressing

Over the last few games the Cats have been shooting the ball well and that continued in this game. Kentucky was 31/59 (52.5%) from the field and had seven three pointers as well. With Kentucky shooting the ball well they also kept Monmouth from doing the same to them. They held them to 36% shooting and if that continues, teams will have a tough time beating Kentucky if they don’t beat themselves with mistakes.

Here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Team Records and Series Notes

· Kentucky wins its sixth game in a row improving to 8-1. Monmouth is 3-7.

· This was the first meeting between UK and Monmouth in men’s basketball.

· Next for the Wildcats: UK returns home next Saturday, Dec. 16 to play Virginia Tech. Game time is 2 p.m. ET and it will be televised on ESPN2.

Coach John Calipari

· Calipari has a 702-194 all-time on-court record.

· Calipari is now 257-54 at Kentucky.

· Kentucky is 67-15 overall at neutral sites under Calipari.

· Kentucky is 7-1 in games in New York City (Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center) during that stretch.

· Kentucky is 4-0 in Madison Square Garden over that span.

In the First Half

· Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the eighth straight game.

· Shai Gilgeous-Alexander knocked down a 3-pointer at the 15:04 mark of the first half to extend UK’s streak of games with a 3-pointer to 1,022-consecutive games. UK is 791-231 during that stretch.

· Kentucky went on an 11-0 run from 15:19 to 12:33 to increase its lead to 14 midway through the first half at 22-8.

· Kentucky did not allow Monmouth to make a field goal over a 6:59 stretch of the opening half. UK scored 22 points during that time.

· Monmouth went on a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 12 at the 6:42 mark, but UK responded with a 13-0 run for a 47-22 lead.

· Washington scored a team-high 16 first-half points, tying the most points in an opening half this season by any player. Washington did his damage on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and 7 of 7 makes from the charity stripe.

· UK scored 54 points in the first half, which are a season high for points in the first half. It’s UK’s second highest point total in any half this season (55 in second half vs. UIC).

· Kentucky shot 60.7 percent from the field in the first half and has shot 50 percent or better in four consecutive games in the opening half.

· UK made 15 free throws in the opening half. It’s the most in a half this season, topping the 12 made free throws it made in the first half of its last game vs. Harvard.

In the Second Half

· Diallo scored the first five points of the second half to lift UK to a 26-point lead with 19:12 to go.

· Gilgeous-Alexander gave UK its largest lead of the game with 10:39 to play at 29 points.

· A 3-pointer by Monmouth enabled the Hawks to pull to within 17 points for the final margin, coincidentally the closest it had been since the 4:24 mark of the first half.

· Diallo scored 15 points and Richards had all 10 of his in the second half.

· Kentucky shot 81.8 percent (9-11) from the free-throw line.

Team Notes

· UK led by as many as 29 points in the game and is 222-4 in the John Calipari era in games that the Wildcats have led by at least 10 points.

· UK outrebounded Monmouth, 47-33, the eighth consecutive game that the Wildcats won or tied the board work.

· UK won points in the paint, 38-26.

· Kentucky led 15-11 on fast-break points.

o UK has had more fast-break points than every opponent this season.

· Six different Wildcats made at least one 3-pointer. UK’s season high for that category was previously three, achieved on three occasions.

· Kentucky shot 53.4 percent from the floor and has topped the 50-percent plateau on four occasions this season, including four of its last six games.

· The Wildcats were 7 of 19 from 3-point range for 36.8 percent. The 19 attempts are a season high.

Player Notes

· Hamidou Diallo scored a career-high 23 points after earning a career-best mark of 19 in each of his last two games.

· Diallo tied his career high with six made free throws and set a career high with 10 attempts from the charity stripe.

· He corralled four rebounds and has hauled in at least three in seven straight games.

· He has scored in double figures in three-consecutive games.

· PJ Washington scored a career-high 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor.

· He was a perfect 9 for 9 from the free throw line. The nine made free throws are the most of any player this season and the most since De’Aaron Fox made 13 against UCLA on March 24, 2017 in the Sweet 16.

· Washington matched a career high with four blocked shots, also achieving the feat vs. Kansas.

· He made his first career 3-pointer in the first half.

· Washington scored 16 points in the first half, tying Kevin Knox’s first-half output against Harvard for the most points scored in a half this season by any UK player.

· Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 15 points and has reached double digits in four-consecutive games.

· He also connected on 2-of-4 shots from 3-point range. The two made 3-pointers are a new career-high mark.

· He narrowly missed on his first double-double with a game-high and career-high nine assists. The nine dimes are the most of any UK player this season and the most since Isaiah Briscoe had 11 at Ole Miss on Dec. 29, 2016.

· Gilgeous-Alexander hauled in a career-high six rebounds.

· After being plagued with foul trouble in the first half, Nick Richards finished the game with 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.

· He’s scored in double figures in three of his last four games.

· He’s hauled in seven or more rebounds in five of his last seven outings.

· Quade Green was off to a nice start with nine points and five assists before leaving midway through the second half with a right eye injury.

· The five assists matched a career high.

· Tai Wynyard snared a career-high six rebounds while also matching career highs in points (4) and minutes (12).

· He also registered a career-best two steals.

· He registered his first career dunk in the first half.

· Brad Calipari played in a season-high six minutes and hauled in his first rebound of the season.