We’ve said it once, but it bears repeating: Malik Monk is the truth—in spurts.
Kentucky, the No. 8 team in the nation and one of the squads favored to challenge for a national title, looked anything but on Tuesday night. Georgia entered the game 13-8, floating around the bottom of the SEC, and yet the Bulldogs presented John Calipari’s squad a tougher challenge than fellow contender Kansas did just two nights ago. Georgia star forward and legitimate NBA prospect Yante Maten scored the game’s first seven points; Kentucky answered by shooting 0-for-5 and committing two turnovers before finally scoring its first bucket at the 16:30-mark. By that time, the Bulldogs led 12-2.
Come halftime, the Wildcats had managed to close the gap, which grew up to 14 points in Georgia’s favor at one point. Monk didn’t have much to do with Kentucky’s first rally—he finished the first 20 minutes shooting 1-of-5 for six points (four free throws), two steals, a block, and four turnovers. Considering Kentucky was already without De’Aaron Fox due to illness, it was a bad night for its most impressive offensive threat to struggle finding his shot.
The first three minutes second half seemed to indicate that the following 17 minutes would be much like the first 23, with nobody in blue but Isaiah Briscoe looking all that good and Monk coming up empty again and again.
Then the rookie did this:
Starting at the 17-minute mark, Monk dropped 15 points in four minutes, drowning Georgia with both set-shot and step-back three-pointers, going 5-for-5 from behind the arc. The Bulldogs weren’t playing lazy defense—all five of Monk’s shots were well contested; but when you’re the best pure scorer in the nation, defense doesn’t much matter. (It’s worth adding that Monk is the nation’s most impressive scorer on a team worth watching, as Washington’s Markelle Fultz does still exist.)
But just as fast as he reclaimed the lead and flexed from range, the Wildcats’ scoring specialist went quiet once again. After putting Kentucky up by six with his fifth trey at the 13-minute mark, Monk receded for the final eight minutes of regulation, shooting 1-for-5 from the field, adding four free throws.
Without Monk single-handedly wrecking Georgia, the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game at 70 with four minutes left. The two teams battled for two-point leads down the stretch, before Georgia claimed a 76-74 advantage on a pair of free throws with 22 second remaining.
Monk, once again, proved that great shooting (and a beautiful out-of-bounds play in which Bam Adebayo set two screens on Monk’s man) beats great defense.
Once the Wildcats made it to overtime, the show was Monk’s. He made a pair of three-pointers and a pair of free throws, scoring eight of Kentucky’s 14 points in the extra period. Monk finished the game with 37 points on 10-of-21 shooting. He shot 7-of-11 from behind the arc and a 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Now, instead of shitting on Kentucky for a three-game losing streak or its troubling inability to smother SEC teams like Tennessee and Georgia, we’re talking about the magic of Malik Monk, who only needs a few minutes of hot shooting to steal a win.