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Victorious in Vegas: Monk’s record-breaking performance leads Cats past Tar Heels

By Keith Taylor
KyForward senior sports writer

Malik Monk stepped on the big stage and took the spotlight Saturday.

The Kentucky freshman guard went on a scoring rampage and tallied 47 points to lead the No. 6 Wildcats to a 103-100 victory over seventh-ranked North Carolina Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas.

Malik Monk scored 47 points to lead UK to a 103-100 win over North Carolina Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic (UK Athletics Photo)

Malik Monk scored 47 points to lead UK to a 103-100 win over North Carolina Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic (UK Athletics Photo)

Monk made eight 3-pointers, shattered a freshman record for most points scored in a game. The final tally was the most for a Kentucky player since Jodie Meeks poured in a school-record 54 points in a win over Tennessee in 2009.

“(It was) like a pick-up game, that’s what it felt like to me,” Monk said afterward. “My teammates set me up well to get every shot I wanted. I was just able to knock it down. It’s just fun, fun to play like that.”

In addition to setting a school record, Monk became the first player in the Calipari era to score more than 40 points in a game and has scored double figures in all 11 games this season. Calipari said Monk’s performance kept the Wildcats from suffering a meltdown down the stretch.

“It’s not just that he had a bunch of baskets,” Calipari said. “He made like daggers that gave us a chance. I made two players in our locker room stand up and come up and hug him because he saved them. Their breakdowns, they’re like, what did you just do? And I made him hug them because he saved them.”

Read More at Keith's Blog

Read More at Keith’s Blog: Out of the Blue

The Wildcats (10-1) were trailing 100-98 with 22 seconds remaining, Monk drained a decisive 3-pointer to give Kentucky the win for good. The trey was the second of two clutch 3-pointers down the stretch that enabled the Wildcats to overcome the Tar Heels.

“I was in the flow, so I wasn’t nervous at all,” Monk said. “I knew I was going to get my shot off how I wanted to, and I was able to knock it down. (De’Aaron) Fox sent me a great pass, and they gave me two great screens.”

Fox sealed the deal with a pair of free throws with less than two seconds remaining for the final margin. Calipari was happy to see his team survive a close encounter, especially after the Wildcats failed to overcome a ranked opponent in a 97-92 loss to second-ranked UCLA earlier this month.

“We needed a close game,” he said. “The game with UCLA wasn’t close. They killed us. We tried to make a little thing at the end and make it three, but it was never three. This game was what a game should be. They make a play, you better make one. They miss a shot, you better come up with one, and you can’t panic.”

Fox followed Monk with a career-high 24 points and added 10 assists for his fourth double-double of the year. Bam Adebayo added 13 points and seven rebounds, followed by Isaiah Briscoe with 10 points.

Calipari stopped short of calling the performance one of the best games he’s ever coached, but said the finish was memorable.

“What a great ending to the game,” he said. “ I mean, just a great ending.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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