Monk’s 47 points lifts UK over UNC in CBS Sports Classic thriller


Freshman guard Malik Monk goes up for a layup during the game against Cleveland State on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 101-70. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Anthony Crawford

For the second year in a row, the CBS Sports Classic produced one of the best scoring outputs from a UK men’s basketball freshman in program history. But this year, it also produced a game that will be labeled as an instant classic, as the No. 6 Cats rode Malik Monk’s 47-point outing, including a go-ahead three in the closing minute, to overcome the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels 103-100.

The game started with Monk giving UK the lead going into halftime with a 56-51 lead thanks to 27 first half points, a new career-high at that point. And it concluded with Monk making the deciding shot in the game, his eighth three with 22 seconds left to give UK a 101-100 lead.

Overall Monk finished with his 47 points in an efficient manner, going 18-for-28 from the field and 8-for-12 from three. He scored in any way imaginable; pulling up in transition, spotting up for shots, falling away from defenders, and many other ways.

The outburst also earned Monk a place among the record books as he put up the top scoring performance for a UK player under John Calipari, and the sixth best scoring performance in UK history.

The story of the game is rightfully Monk, but it’s easy for his scoring rampage to overshadow just how good the game was overall. Let alone the fact that it went right down to the wire, the game featured two top-ten teams playing at a high level and pushing each other to their limits. To say that the game had a March Madness feel to it would be an understatement.

While the stakes weren’t as high as they’ll be in the coming months, the game was just as fun as it pit two fast-paced teams against each other. Both teams lived up to their reputations, and as the scoring came in bunches from both teams, and Monk especially, defense seemingly became optional.

Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field and from three and Monk was not the only one that had a career day, too. His backcourt mate, and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox also lent Monk a hand in carrying the scoring load chipping in 24 points and 10 assists. When Monk started going off in the first half, Fox took advantage of the lack of attention from the defense to burn the Tar Heels when he could.

Both of those two young guards played great for UK, but it was veterans like Joel Berry and Justin Jackson of UNC that allowed the Tar Heels to hang in the game and take the lead up until Monk’s heroics in the final moments of the game.

Berry was playing in his first game back from injury, but he showed no rust as he tallied 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the losing effort for the Tar Heels.

Jackson contributed a career-high in points himself with 34, and he did it in almost as spectacular fashion as Monk did. Arguably UK’s best defender in Isaiah Briscoe drew Jackson as his assignment and the Tar Heel forward’s length gave way to him shooting over the defense and driving in and finishing inside with little resistance.

It was Jackson that nearly stole the show from Monk in the final minutes as he hit a three with the game tied at 95, to give UNC a three-point lead with 1:37 left to play. But UK’s freshman scoring sensation showed no distress, as Monk nailed a three on the following possession to tie the game back up.

Then Jackson did it again, this time driving in and finishing through contact to convert an and-one. He missed the following free throw, though, and that left the door open for UK to take back the lead with a three.

Monk jumped at the chance, as he caught the ball behind the arc in transition then shot and made the three despite Calipari’s urging him to drive the ball.

The Cats were able to come up with a rare stop on the following possession and Fox nailed two free throws after being fouled to give UK a three-point lead.

UNC had two attempts at inbounding the ball to get a shot off but, the Tar Heels failed to convert.

There’s obviously a loser that walks away from this game, but it was such a classic that neither team should be ashamed of their efforts. In the end it was just a special night for Monk, and UK needed every point of his 47-point outing to out duel the Tar Heels.