The second half of Kentucky’s rout of Arizona State on Monday repeated the slaughter of the first half … with one notable exception. About midway through the second half, a wayward outlet pass made Malik Monk jump so high and awkwardly that he lost his balance.
As Monk fell to the floor, he somehow caught the pass with one hand and re-directed it to Wenyen Gabriel for a dunk.
“’SportsCenter’ just popped into my head,” Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley said of his immediate reaction. “That was the first word when I saw that play. You don’t see many plays like that. It’s just crazy athleticism.”
The dunk held no competitive meaning. It increased UK’s lead to 83-40 with about 12 minutes left.
But it spoke volumes about Kentucky’s unusual combination of skill, athleticism, depth, chemistry and other components of basketball greatness.
As the teams retreated back downcourt after Monk’s pass from the horizontal, UK assistant coach Tony Barbee seemed to suppress a smile as he shook his head.
“He’s freaky that way,” UK Coach John Calipari said.
But, Calipari added, freaky can be extended too far.
“My thing is you don’t need showtime,” the UK coach said. “Just play.”
Like everyone at the game, Fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox enjoyed the show.
“It’s ridiculous,” Fox said. “Everybody knows his athleticism. He just keeps showing it.”
‘A different breed’
Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II knew he had a tough matchup with Fox.
“He’s tall. He’s quick. He’s athletic,” Evans said Sunday. “So he has all the right tools. A guy like me, who is undersized, probably not as quick, I have to find my way against him.”
When asked how often he played against an opponent both taller and quicker, Evans said of Fox, “He’s a different breed.”
In his seventh collegiate game, Fox recorded only the second triple-double in UK history.
Of UK’s storied program now having only two triple-doubles, Calipari said, “A lot of times it was a lot of players sharing.” So no need for one dominant stat line.
Who’s Chris Mills?
Chris Mills, the first and until Monday the only Kentucky player to record a triple-double, was a mystery to Fox.
When asked if he knew of Mills, Fox said, “I don’t. I don’t.”
Fox pointed out that 1988, when Mills recorded a triple-double, “was nine years before I was born.
“It’s ridiculous just how hard it is for a guy to get a triple-double,” Fox added, “… I did it. I can’t do anything but thank my teammates, my coaches and God.”
44 baskets, 33 assists
Of Kentucky’s 44 baskets against Arizona State, 33 included assists. That assist total was two shy of a UK record (35 against San Jose State in the 1996 NCAA Tournament).
A UK team hadn’t posted as many as 33 assists since getting 33 against Kentucky State on Dec. 15, 2001.
“We just love playing together,” Bam Adebayo said of the assists. “We’re like brothers. So we’re going to give each other the ball.”
The new center-hung scoreboard at Rupp Arena is 45 feet above the court. The ceiling in the Atlantis Resort’s Imperial Ballroom was 26 feet above the court. According to NCAA rule, no object — most definitely including the ceiling — can be closer to the floor than 25 feet.
Away and away
The two-year Kentucky-Arizona State deal called for a game in Lexington last season and then a second in the Bahamas.
One reason Hurley agreed to essentially two away games was because he saw playing Kentucky as a chance to bolster his program’s profile.
“We’re trying to recruit top-level guys that want to play in these type games,” he said.
‘It’s a win-win’
Calipari, who makes no secret of his dislike of the travel involved when playing in an event like the Maui Invitational, lavished praise on the Atlantis Showcase.
“We get to travel, which is good for them (event organizers and Bahamian tourism),” he said. “But not at the expense of three games back-to-back-to-back against teams we’re just not ready to (play) yet.”
Calipari spoke of an annual game at Atlantis, the resort in Nassau.
“It’s two hours from our campus,” he said. “… It’s a two-hour flight and we’re in another world.”
Calipari said that Atlantis wins, too.
“They know we’re going to travel (with a lot of fans),” he said. “They know TV follows us. It’s a win-win for them. Believe me, if it was a win-win for them and not for us, we would not be here.”