Kentucky freshman Malik Monk’s shooting slump continued in the NCAA Tournament on Friday. And he acknowledged he could not blame the lack of a pregame shootaround this time.
Monk had not one but two shootarounds prior to Kentucky’s first-round game against Northern Kentucky. He had one at 9:30 a.m., then another with the team at 3 p.m.
“I got a lot of shots up,” he said after UK’s 79-70 victory over NKU. “They just weren’t falling.”
At Texas A&M, in the regular season’s last game, and then at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Kentucky played at noon local time. The early start meant no pregame shootaround.
UK’s NCAA Tournament opener began close to 10 p.m., which gave Monk plenty of extra time to shoot. The difference did not show in the game.
Against Northern Kentucky, Monk made three of 11 shots, making him 17 of 54 in the last five games. That’s 31.5-percent accuracy.
Monk missed all six of his three-point shots, which made him three for 21 from beyond the arc in the same span (14.3 percent). He failed to make a three-pointer for only the fourth time this season, and the second time in the last four games.
When asked why he misfired against Northern, Monk said, “I really can’t tell you. I got all the looks I wanted. The shots weren’t falling.”
Over a longer period, Monk has not shot well away from Rupp Arena. In UK’s last 12 games away from home, he’s made 52 of 154 shots (33.8 percent), and 14 of 64 three-point attempts (21.9 percent).
Monk spoke of not dwelling on past performances that cannot be changed.
“It’s over with,” he said. “We won. So we can be happy until the next round.”
UK Coach John Calipari made it clear he’s no fan of made-for-TV late-night starts. He opened his postgame news conference with a request.
“Folks, can you make this really quick?” he said. “It’s 12:30. A college kid shouldn’t be playing at 12:30. The old man that’s coaching their team has to watch tapes tonight. Can you ask (only) a couple questions.
“We shouldn’t be playing this late, but that’s another issue for another day.”
UK’s second-round game against Wichita State is scheduled to begin around 2:40 p.m. EDT. It will follow the Louisville-Michigan game, which has a 12:10 p.m. start time.
Win with offense?
So far, the NCAA Tournament reflects the effort to bring more scoring and action to college basketball.
In a 92-91 loss to Michigan Friday, Oklahoma State became the fifth team to score 80 or more points in a loss in this year’s tournament. This shift away from defense-defense-defense caught Coach Brad Underwood’s attention.
“It’s one of those deals, we shot 55 percent in the NCAA tournament and just lost in the first round,” he said. “The game is evolving into this. This goes against basically every stereotype you know.”
Oklahoma State made 54.7 percent of its shots. The Cowboys had 17 assists and only 10 turnovers. OSU almost had as many offensive rebounds (16) as Michigan had total rebounds (21).
“It’s one I’ve got to grasp: out-rebound an opponent 40-21 and lose,” Underwood said. “The game’s changing. The three-point line is changing that way. We saw teams in our league that did the same thing.”
Back in Indy
Kentucky came into the game with a 5-2 record in NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis. In its only previous game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, UK beat Kansas 72-40 on Nov. 18, 2014. It was the most lopsided loss of Bill Self’s coaching career.
In previous NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis, UK beat Minnesota and then lost to Arizona in the 1997 Final Four, beat Eastern Kentucky and Cincinnati in the first weekend of 2005, beat Louisville and Michigan in the 2014 regional and lost to Wisconsin in the 2015 Final Four.
The 2005 game against Eastern Kentucky was a two-seed against a 15 seed. UK won 72-64 in the RCA Dome.
Reprise of blowouts?
In the only previous non-exhibition between the two schools, UK beat NKU 93-63 in Rupp Arena on Nov. 10, 2013.
Likewise, Louisville had played Jacksonville State once previously. U of L won 88-39 on Nov. 17, 2014.
Louisville beat a much more competitive Jacksonville State 78-63.
Northern Kentucky was also much more competitive in a second game against Kentucky.
Jawun Evans, a 6-1 sophomore for Oklahoma State, was hardly the model of efficiency, taking 26 shots in scoring 23 points against Michigan.
But Evans was fast and fierce. He had seven rebounds and 12 rebounds.
Similarly, U of L’s Donovan Mitchell contributed despite making only three of 15 shots. He grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds, got credit for five assists and committed only one turnover in 39 minutes.
“He’s come a long way,” Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said. “Normally, if he missed shots, he wouldn’t do that. That’s great.”
The First Four might seem like a patronizing gesture. But Southern Cal’s 66-65 victory over SMU Friday was doubly noteworthy.
Southern Cal snapped SMU’s 16-game winning streak, the longest for any team in this NCAA Tournament. By beating Dayton later Friday, Wichita State would win its 16th straight game.
Southern Cal, which beat Providence 75-71 in Dayton on Wednesday, extended another streak.
At least one team that’s played in the First Four has won another NCAA Tournament game in each of the First Four’s seven-year existence.
VCU set the standard by advancing to the 2011 Final Four. Then came South Florida (2012), LaSalle (2013), Tennessee (2014), Dayton (2015) and Wichita State (2016).
Kentucky out-rebounded NKU 46-40. The Norse had out-rebounded 26 of its previous 34 opponents. … Youth was served in the game. NKU (eight) and UK (seven) combined to have 15 players who played college basketball for the first time this season.