Five things to know about Kentucky basketball’s opponent on Wednesday night, the Monmouth Hawks:
1. Monmouth has yet to win a game this season
The Hawks are 0-7. They lost 85-61 to Lehigh; 87-74 at Colgate; 78-63 at St. Joseph’s; 71-53 to West Virginia; 64-53 to Valparaiso, 87-63 to Cal-State Fullerton and 60-57 to Princeton.
Monmouth actually led Princeton 47-37 with 8:58 remaining only to lose by three points to the Tigers. To show you just how much John Calipari is focusing on his own team, the Kentucky coach didn’t even bring that up in his day-before press conference on Tuesday. Normally, to talk up his opponent, Cal would have said, “Monmouth should have beaten Princeton. They had Princeton beat.”
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Monmouth is currently No. 263 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings. They are 303rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 193rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Hawks are 317th in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings. And they are way, way down the list, No. 345 out of 353 Division I teams in the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings.
By comparison, Kentucky is 19th in kenpom; 47th in Sagarin and 61st in the NET.
2. King Rice and John Calipari share a coaching connection
A native New Yorker and former point guard at North Carolina, Rice coached with Calipari on the USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup team in 2017. Calipari was the head coach. Rice, Tad Boyle (Colorado), Danny Manning (Wake Forest), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Ed Cooley (Providence) served on the staff that helped pick the team and aided Calipari as assistants.
Alas, Canada knocked off the U.S. 99-87 in the tournament semifinals behind 38 points from R.J. Barrett. That’s the same R.J. Barrett that is now starring for the Duke Blue Devils, and who scored 33 points in Duke’s 118-84 win over UK on Nov. 6.
In his eighth season as the Monmouth head coach, Rice is 117-119 overall. The 49-year-old is coming off an 11-20 season in 2016-17. Before that, however, he experienced his two most successful seasons as a head coach. The Hawks were 28-8 overall and 17-3 in the MAAC in 2015-16, then 27-7 overall and 18-2 in the conference in 2016-17. Alas, the Hawks did not make the NCAA Tournament in either season.
Before coming to Monmouth, Rice was an assistant under Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt from 2006 through 2011.
3. Kentucky handled Monmouth last year in New York
The Cats handled the Hawks 93-76 at Madison Square Garden in the CitiHoops Classic. Hamidou Diallo celebrated his Big Apple homecoming with 23 points. PJ Washington scored 17 points in the first half, finished with 20, and was praised by Calipari for losing weight since coming on campus. Washington was 9-of-9 from the foul line. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points for the Cats.
UK jumped to a 29-12 lead on the way to a 54-31 halftime lead. The Cats led by as many as 29 points in the second half before Monmouth went on a 15-6 run over the game’s final 2:43 to cut the final deficit to 17 points. Micah Seaborn led Monmouth with 18 points.
4. Micah Seaborn is no longer with the Hawks
After averaging 13.7 points as a junior, the 6-foot-5 guard from Fort Worth, Texas, was expected to return to Monmouth for his senior season. Instead, Seaborn announced that he would graduate and then transfer to another school for his final season.
When that didn’t work out, he entered the NBA Draft. That didn’t work out either as Seaborn eventually withdrew from the draft. Instead, he entered the G League draft where he was taken by the Grand Rapids Drive with the 19th overall pick.
Aside from losing Seaborn, Rice pulled the scholarship of forward Pierre Sarr. The 6-8 forward from Senegal averaged just 3.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 9.7 minutes per game as a junior.
5. This Monmouth team has trouble from three
It especially has trouble shooting the basketball from three-point range. Monmouth ranks 339th out of 353 Division I schools in three-point field goal percentage at 25.5 percent. The Hawks have made just 33 of 131 three-point attempts.
Deion Hammond, a 6-4 sophomore, has made 16 of 50 three-pointers for 32 percent. He leads the Hawks in scoring at 12.9 points per game. He is also far and away Monmouth’s best three-point shooter. Louie Pillari, a 6-6 junior, is 5-of-26 for 19.2 percent. George Papas, a 6-5 sophomore, is 3-of-20 from three for 15 percent.
Kentucky is 350th out of 353 nationally in three-point defense. Opponents have made a sizzling 43.4 percent of their shots beyond the arc against the Cats. VMI was 19-of-38. Winthrop went 13-of-28. Last time out, Tennessee State was 6-of-16.
Here are Monmouth’s three-point numbers in each of its seven games:
- Lehigh 4-of-21
- Colgate 6-of-18
- St. Joseph’s 4-of-18
- West Virginia 7-of-18
- Valparaiso 4-of-18
- Cal State Fullerton 3-of-21
- Princeton 5-of-17