Kentucky Basketball: Shorthanded Wildcats End Skid, Beat Georgia in OT
Kentucky basketball has never lost three games in a row under John Calipari, and the Georgia Bulldogs put that streak to the test.
The Kentucky Wildcats flirted dangerously close with the first three-game losing streak of Coach John Calipari’s UK career Tuesday night. But behind a 37 point performance by Malik Monk, the Cats defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 90-81 in overtime at Rupp Arena.
This game featured a sluggish start for the home team, an exciting end to the first forty minutes and a fitting send-off for one of most legendary sports broadcasters in history.
Kentucky (now 17-4, 7-1 in SEC play) overcame the absence of starting point guard De’Aaron Fox, who was a late scratch due to illness. In a peculiar case of lineup rotation, backup center Isaac Humphries replaced Fox in the starting lineup with several teammates changing roles.
Derek Willis replaced Wynen Gabriel in the initial set. Big Blue fans had hoped their team would quickly bounce back from losses last week to Tennessee and Kansas. But the Wildcats obviously struggled early without the freshman Fox. Georgia jumped out to a 12-0 lead.
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The Cats gradually got back into the game, but trailed 26-18 with 5:25 left in the half. That was a shockingly low offensive output at that point for the typically high-scoring Kentucky team. The Cats picked up the pace through the rest of the frame and were fortunate to be tied 29-29 at halftime. They survived 29% field goal shooting in the half by going 9-10 from the free throw line.
Kentucky started finding their groove in the second half. After tallying only six points in the first half, including 0-2 from behind the arc, Monk turned it around after intermission.
The freshman from Lepanto, Arkansas went on a tear comparable to his 47 point outburst versus North Carolina earlier in the season. He went 7-9 from three-point range in the second half and OT. He totaled 31 points in the final 25 minutes.
Briscoe came back from a recent stretch of sub-par performances to nearly notch his second triple double of the season. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
The sophomore continued a season-long reversal of his dismal free-throw shooting last season. He went 11-15 from the line to improve to 72% for the year. Bam Adebayo managed to play to the last ten minutes of regulation and overtime with four fouls and made key contributions down the stretch as well.
Coming Through In The Clutch
The Wildcats surged to a midway through the second half and appeared to have the game in hand. But led by Yante Maden and the seemingly ageless J.J. Frazier, the Bulldogs fought back and led 76-74 late with Kentucky inbounding the ball under their own basket.
But the Cats must not have wanted Brent Musburger’s play-by-play career to end. Coach Cal drew up a play that took Monk through two screens by Adebayo and resulted in a contested deep two from the corner with ten seconds left to tie the game at 76 all. Georgia couldn’t score on their final possession and the contest was sent to extra minutes.
The final five minutes lacked much drama. Kentucky scored the first five points and never looked back. Monk totaled 8 points and had a nice assist to Adebayo for a slam. Monk’s last two foul shots gave the Cats the final 90-81 margin.
You Are Looking Live (For The Last Time)
This game marked the final play-by-play call by legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger. Brent has called almost every sport there is in his fifty-year career.
From the NBA and NFL Today on CBS in the 1970’s, to the Doug Flutie-Gary Phelan Hail Mary and the Villanova over Georgetown national title upset (in that very same Rupp Arena) in the 1980’s, and in the last decade-plus becoming a fixture on Big 12, then SEC football, the man has seen it all and called it all.
I was able to meet him a few years ago on the backside of Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. He’s a consummate professional. Coach Cal presented him with a framed Kentucky “50” jersey during the game and he was brought to center court to be “The Y” in a traditional Rupp Arena cheer late in the game.
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Thanks for the memories, Brent. Here’s hoping for lots of winners as you move on to a new phase in your career. As Jay Bilas said in your send off, you always made the games bigger.
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