Three take-aways as Kentucky beats Georgia 90-81 in overtime:
1. Backs to the wall, Kentucky showed some fight
No De’Aaron Fox, the point guard sitting this one out with the flu. Very little of Bam Adebayo in the first half after he picked up two fouls and and a seat on the bench for 15 minutes. Not much shooting either, with host Kentucky hitting just 29 percent in the first half.
“I don’t know how we won, to be honest,” John Calipari said afterward.
Malik Monk is the main answer to that question. After scoring just six points in the first half, the freshman sharpshooter went en fuego in the second half to score 31 points and finish with 37 in an overtime game.
But Kentucky fought, too. That toughness that Calipari has been harping on since the 79-73 loss to Kansas last Saturday showed up in key stretches when the Cats fought back from that first-half deficit and rallied from eight down with just under seven minutes to go.
A big overlooked stat: Kentucky won the boards 45-32. Along with his 23 points and eight assists, Isaiah Briscoe had 11 rebounds.
Which brings us to ...
2. Briscoe rises to the occasion
In the aftermath of their two-game losing streak, a question I kept hearing had to do with what in the world is going on with Isaiah Briscoe?
The sophomore had not seemed like himself of late, unable to finish his crafty drives to the basket – no matter whether he shot the ball low or high – committing turnovers, not playing with the same energy and fight he had displayed earlier in the season.
Then Fox came down with the flu Monday, scratching him from Tuesday night’s tilt. Speculation had senior Dominique Hawkins starting at guard to keep the three-guard lineup going. Instead, Calipari opted to go big, with Isaac Humphries joining Adebayo up front and Briscoe running the point.
“How did that work out?” Calipari said of the big lineup. “Obviously I’m not starting with that again.”
Kentucky fell behind 12-0 to start the game and 19-5 less than six minutes into the contest. It was a long, steady climb back into it after that.
Still, Calipari kept Briscoe at the point, and the New Jersey native played well. Yes, he had six turnovers and missed nine of 15 shots, but he was the leader on the floor, the focal point, the guy who made the offense go.
In fact, it was Briscoe who saw that Monk was sitting on a big game and kept feeding the freshman the ball. Briscoe said he saw something in Monk’s eyes. He also said that Monk kept calling for alley-oops, but Briscoe had a better idea.
“I told him to get to the corner,” Briscoe said.
3. You had to feel for Georgia, didn’t you?
This was the second road overtime game the Bulldogs have lost this season. They lost 80-76 in OT at Florida. Now add this nine-point OT loss at Kentucky. Plus, Georgia lost by one point, 63-62, at Texas A&M.
Mark Fox’s team is now 13-9 overall and 4-5 in the SEC. And this was nothing new for the Bulldogs, who seem to almost always play Kentucky close only to come up short. In 2014-15, Georgia played Calipari’s 38-1 team as tough as anyone outside of Wisconsin in the Final Four, only to lose 72-65 in Athens. Last year in the SEC Tournament, Georgia led by 10 in the first half only to lose 93-80.
“I have to give Kentucky’s team credit for competing their tails off and making big plays,” Fox said. “Monk, you have to give him credit. He made some guarded shots and he obviously was the big difference in the game.”
Kentucky men’s basketball 2016-17
Stephen F Austin
vs. Michigan State
vs. Arizona St.
vs. North Carolina