What a huge win for Kentucky. In a game they really needed in order to win the SEC, the Cats went all out against the No. 13 Florida Gators.
It was going to be tough without De’Aaron Fox, but the Cats had the next man up mentality. Mychal Mulder replaced Fox in the starting lineup and contributed a bit, and Dominique Hawkins came off the bench and played harder than we’ve seen anyone play this year.
Of course, Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk helped as well, as they each exploded. Monk scored 33 points despite a terrible first half, and Adebayo recorded a double-double and tied his career-high for rebounds.
With the effort that was shown and the great basketball that was played, this felt like a game that could help the Cats realize their potential as we approach the SEC tournament.
Here are three things to know about the 76-66 win over Florida.
Passing didn’t go well without De’Aaron Fox (at first)
When your leading assist man isn’t on the floor, you usually don’t pass as well as usual, and that was the case today. The Wildcats committed 12 first half turnovers. They weren’t well-adjusted to having to slow it down; with Fox at the point they can play as fast as they want, but today they had to be more patient.
Once they did that, the turnovers decreased heavily. They had just 4 in the second half, ending the game with 16. While Kentucky hopefully won’t have entire games without Fox in the NCAA Tournament, there will be stretches when he’s in foul trouble and others must step up.
Today, we saw Briscoe and Hawkins can do that, at least for stretches. Still, this team isn’t going far without a healthy Fox.
There was a lot more effort than usual
Kentucky certainly got an A for effort today. Malik Monk, Dominique Hawkins, Wenyen Gabriel and Bam Adebayo especially played extremely hard. Adebayo’s effort showed up in his statsheet, as he recorded a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, tying the career high that he set against Missouri last time out.
Of course, he had his fair share of huge slam dunks as well.
In total, Kentucky outrebounded the Gators 48-30, a huge difference compared to the last matchup between the two, when Florida dominated the glass. The effort was certainly there today.
Malik Monk caught fire in the second half
Monk was under a lot of fire in the first half, putting up just 3 points and appearing to be a bit out of control with the ball. But in the second half he found his groove, and for all the heat he took in the first, he deserved three times as much praise in the second.
He scored 30 points in the second half, ending the game with 33, as well as 5 assists and 4 rebounds. He shot 50% from the field, 71% from three-point range and 91% from the free throw line.
Monk made some incredible highlight reel plays happen.
More looks at this Malik Monk Explosion. pic.twitter.com/9XkGGIg6Z0— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 25, 2017
LORD HAVE MERCY ON ALL OUR SOULS. pic.twitter.com/XamSSAdI0u— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 25, 2017
Things haven’t always been pretty for Kentucky over the past month, but this was exactly the kind of feel-good win the Cats needed heading into March.