A big reason why Northern Kentucky was able to push Kentucky more than expected was Malik Monk struggling mightily by his standards.
The freshman guard was a ghost for much of the contest, finishing with just 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 0-for-6 from deep. It turns out Monk was battling through a lower back injury suffered in Sunday’s SEC Championship win over Arkansas, head coach John Calipari revealed Saturday.
“He didn’t practice this week because he had a lower back, butt bruise, whatever you want to call it,” Cal said. “He didn’t practice for two days.”
Kentucky isn’t going to be great teams with Monk having an off night like that, and another one could be what Wichita State needs to spring the upset. The good news is Calipari was pleased with Monk not forcing his shots and hurting the rest of the offense.
“What I liked was that he took 2s, he drove the ball, and he made free throws,” Cal said. “You’re not going to be on every game, so you just don’t take 12 3s then. You’re not on today. Get the ball to the basket, get fouled, take 2s. He’s a great 2-point shooter. They’ll still play him to three because he can make seven in a row.”
Monk did take Calipari’s advice and got to the foul line seven times, hitting six. He also had two rebounds, two assists and didn’t commit a turnover. Monk finding different ways to help his team when he’s cold is a big reason why Kentucky has reeled off 12 straight wins.
But for Kentucky to keep winning in the NCAA Tournament, they’re going to need Monk at or near 100 percent, something he clearly was not this week.