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Kentucky has their Mariano Rivera and his name is Malik Monk

Like in baseball, all great teams needs that closer to shut games down. Kentucky has that in Malik Monk.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Georgia
Malik Monk has scored 20+ points in a game 16 times this season.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

When opposing teams heard Metallica’s Enter Sandman on the Yankee Stadium speakers, it usually meant that the game was over because Mariano Rivera was going to sit the next three hitters down in order to end the ballgame.

When Malik Monk is running off screens and in transition towards the basket, while making everything he throws up as virtually the entire Kentucky offense, they’re entering the danger zone against the ‘Cats. (Shouts to Kenny Loggins.)

Kentucky led Vanderbilt by four points with about 90 seconds left on Tuesday night in Lexington. They had trailed by as many as 19 points early on and a large part of why they were able to steal one and clinch the top seed in next week’s SEC Tournament was because of Malik Monk coming up clutch yet again.

After Vandy’s Jeff Roberson finally missed a shot in the second half, De’Aaron Fox pulled down the rebound and brought the ball up. You know what happens next.

Monk canned a right corner 3 to put the ‘Cats up seven points inside of the final minute, and along with a couple free throws late, sealed the deal for Kentucky’s 13th win in the last 16 games.

Not only did Monk stick the dagger in Vandy getting a huge win for their tournament resume, he scored the final seven points on Tuesday night and iced the game away with his four clutch freebies at the end. Those free throws helped him reach the 20-point plateau in a half for the sixth time all season.

The ‘Cats may not have the look of a Final Four team, but they’re still winning, and at this time of the year, that’s all that matters.

Think back to the Final Four runs made by John Calipari teams in the past. What did all they have? A guy that could make a big shot, right?

Let’s see, there was Brandon Knight ... not once, but twice. There was Aaron Harrison ... not once, but twice. And now, it appears Malik Monk has become the next in line to join the group of clutch gene-havers in Lexington during the greatest time of the college basketball calendar.

He’s not scared to take the shots needed to win the game. You remember the classic against North Carolina in Sin City from December, don’t you? Who hit the big shot there ... not once, but twice?

The wins haven’t been pretty as of late for Kentucky, but they’ve won seven in a row, clinched at least a share of their 48th SEC regular season title, and will head to Nashville as the No. 1 seed in search of their third straight SEC Tournament title (and their 30th in school history).

Malik Monk is one of the main reasons why Kentucky is still in line for a chance of playing the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in nearby Indianapolis; a nearby city that’s been friendly to them in the past with wins over Louisville, Michigan and a beatdown of Kansas by the 38-1 team. Without Monk, there’s no way Kentucky survives against Vandy and against second-place Florida, a team that destroyed them by 22 points on Feb. 4 that still serves as their last defeat.

Since the loss to Florida, Monk is averaging 21 points a game, while shooting a blistering 43.2 percent from deep (taking over six attempts from 3 a night).

The stat Calipari will like: Monk’s averaging 6.3 free throw attempts per game since that loss on Feb. 4. (He’s making 86.4 percent of those attempts, too.)

De’Aaron Fox is working his way back from a knee issue and didn’t look like himself against Vanderbilt. Isaiah Briscoe has been searching for a breakout showing for a while. Other than Bam Adebayo’s consistent play down low lately and on the glass, Kentucky hasn’t had much to turn to outside of Monk’s shooting offensively.

Whether it comes in Nashville on the road to Calipari’s fifth SEC Tournament title since he took over or in the final seconds of a Sweet 16 showdown against one of college basketball’s better teams, Kentucky is going to call Malik Monk’s number to save the day.

And, if history does tend to repeat itself, Monk’s going to be remembered like a certain closer up in the Bronx.