After scoring double-digit points in Kentucky’s first 30 games and staying on pace to be the most prolific scorer for a John Calipari team, Malik Monk’s feast has suddenly turned to famine.
Monk scored only two points in Kentucky’s 71-60 victory over Georgia Friday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
When asked the last time he scored so few points, Monk smiled and said, “Never, man. I don’t think I ever did that.”
Monk scored only six points at Texas A&M last weekend, meaning he had totaled eight points in his last 61 minutes of game action.
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Teammate Isaiah Briscoe tried to lessen concern. In his last two games, Monk has made three of 17 shots (none of five attempts from three-point range).
“He’s fine, he’s fine,” Briscoe said. “He’s a confident kid.”
Briscoe tried to lend perspective to Briscoe’s struggles.
“He’s not going to be perfect every game,” Briscoe said. “You know what I mean? He’s going to have days like this. He’s going to have games like that. Somebody else has to step up.”
Teammates compensated against Georgia. Meanwhile, Monk pondered how to get back on track.
“I just need to get to focusing in more,” he said. “Be way more patient, and just listen to coach. That’s all it is to it.”
When he spoke to reporters earlier in the week about being voted Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in balloting conducted by The Associated Press, Monk said shoot-around workouts were important. Early-afternoon games (like at Texas A&M and against Georgia) make it difficult for a team to conduct the customary day-of-game workout several hours before tip-off.
“I’m just going to have to get up myself or do something,” he said. “I can’t play like this no more or we’re going to lose games.”
When asked how the shoot-around workouts help, Monk said, “I just get a sweat. Now, I’ll get up in the morning and jog or something.”
Coincidentally, the two-point game against Georgia continued a pattern. In UK’s last nine games away from Rupp Arena, Monk has made only 32.5 percent of his shots (38 of 117) and 22.9 percent of his three-point attempts (11 of 48). He’s averaged 13.3 points in those games.
Calipari suggested Monk compensate in poor-shooting games by rebounding, defending and drawing fouls to get to the foul line. Monk took two free throws against Georgia, two at A&M and has averaged 4.7 foul shots in UK’s last nine games away from Rupp Arena.
On his radio show Monday, Calipari spoke of NBA thoughts hindering performance.
“If every shot in your mind is a draft position, you’re not making any shots,” Calipari said. “The air ball at the foul line. You can’t play that way. You just play.”
Wenyen Gabriel, who shot an air ball free throw at Texas A&M, said he was not overly distracted by NBA thoughts.
“I’m not really thinking too much about that right now,” he said. “I’ve had to think I might be coming back next year. So I’m more focused on the tournament right now. I’m still trying to reach my potential, trying to get better every day.”
Dominique Hawkins came close to the play of the game. He drove the lane and rose for a one-handed dunk over a defender. But the defender contested the dunk and it missed.
“I saw there was one defender,” Hawkins said. “He looked like he was under the goal. So I was, like, I might as well give it a go.”
Of what might have been, Hawkins said, “If I made it, I’d probably go crazy. I would have screamed. Definitely screamed.”
If Hawkins had completed the dunk, Monk said, “He would have been on ESPN, for sure.”
Monk fell behind Sindarius Thornwell of South Carolina in the SEC scoring race. The two went into the SEC Tournament in a virtual tie for top scorer.
Monk’s two points against Georgia lowered his scoring average to 20.6 points.
Thornwell scored 16 points in South Carolina’s 64-53 loss to Alabama on Friday. His scoring average slipped to 20.9 points.
All games, including those in the postseason, count in determining the seasonal statistics.
On the plus side, Monk’s two points moved him into second place on UK’s list of top freshman scorers. His total increased to 658. Brandon Knight had been second with the 657 points he scored in 2010-11.
UK’s top freshman scorer is Jamal Murray, who had 720 points last season.