Monk, Fox lead Briscoe-less UK to victory over the Vikings


Freshman guard Malik Monk goes for a layup during the game against Cleveland State on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Anthony Crawford

Thoughts of the impending turkey dinner didn’t weigh No. 1 UK basketball down the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as the team got out to one of its best starts to eventually beat the Cleveland State Vikings 101-70.

Before the game even started, news broke from UK that the team would be without its lead guard and undoubtable leader, Isaiah Briscoe, who sat out due to a back injury he sustained against Duquesne Sunday. Senior Dominique Hawkins replaced him in the starting lineup.

The Cats have been susceptible to slow starts to start the season, with Briscoe being the guy to carry the team at the beginning of games. But against the Vikings, the other two thirds of UK’s starting backcourt, freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, picked up the slack scoring 31 of UK’s 56 first half points.

Monk, especially, had a strong start to the game missing only one shot in the first half, and going a perfect 4-for-4 from deep. He scored in a variety of ways, including an impressive euro-step on the break, and did well to get his teammates involved with four first half assists. 

Monk finished the game with 23 points, tying his career-high, to go along with three rebounds and four assists. His shooting splits of 8-for-12 from the field and 4-for-6 from three are a big bonus to the team, as he continues to shake off his reputation as a streaky shooter.

While Monk went off in the first half, Fox had his way in the second half as ended the game by tallying his second career double-double of 16 points and 11 assists. He was simply a blur in transition and powered UK’s offense by either finishing at the rim or finding open shooters in those opportunities. 

In the win over the Vikings, UK also got to show off it’s embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt as several big men finished with big games.

The first guy that stands out is Wenyen Gabriel, who flirted with a triple-double before finishing with his first career double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Gabriel’s effort was undeniable and fueled UK many times when the offense dulled. He had multiple offensive putbacks, and impressive block and even took on more of a playmaking role throwing some oops in the rout over Cleveland State.

Another big man in Bam Adebayo also had a great game finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds. He has shaken off any struggles that he started his collegiate career with and now looks comfortable doing whatever it is UK needs him to do. If they want to throw it into the post and have him be more of a scorer he can do that. But if they just need him to run the floor, rebound and play solid defense, he’s happy doing that too. 

Bam also racked up a couple assists in some high-low action for UK, finding sophomore Isaac Humphries in both situations for easy layups. Humphries did most of his damage in only a half a play, as he ended the first half with just two rebounds, but finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds, tying a career-high in scoring.

The win keeps UK undefeated heading into Thanksgiving, with many of the freshmen starting to hit their stride. UK returns to action after the holiday Friday to take on UT Martin in Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. ET.