In the history of players and weeks and awards, has there ever been an easier pick for someone to receive a Player of the Week award than Malik Monk this week?
In case you spent the last 48 hours under a rock, Monk set a Kentucky freshman scoring record and a season-high nationally by dropping 47 points on Saturday as No. 6 Kentucky knocked off No. 7 North Carolina. Think about it like this: Of all the players that have ever played at Kentucky – including, but certainly not limited to, Karl Towns, Anthony Davis, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins – here is the list of players that have scored more points in a single game than Monk did on Saturday: Jodie Meeks, Dan Issel, Cliff Hagan and Bob Burrow.
And Monk did it on national television against one of the biggest brands and best teams in the country.
Not only did he score 47 – you can see each of those 47 points right here – but Monk also ensured that the Wildcats didn’t throwaway a game they controlled for roughly 38 minutes.
With two minutes left, North Carolina took their first lead in forever on a three from Justin Jackson. Monk immediately responded with a contested three of his own. Then 90 seconds later, after UNC again took a lead, Monk buried another contested three from the same spot, this one with 15 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 101-100 lead.
But that’s not my favorite part of Monk’s Saturday.
This is: during the halftime interview on the broadcast, John Calipari called Monk’s threes “fool’s gold”. He didn’t want his trigger-happy freshman to start settling for 22-footers just because he had hit a few 22-footers. Which brings us to that game-winning jumper.
“Coach Cal told me to drive,” Monk said. “But I was hot. So I didn’t.”
“I said, ‘Drive the ball! Drive the ball!’ And he shot a three and it went in,” added Cal. “So I said, ‘Great shot, kid. Way to shoot the ball.'”
THEY WERE GOOD TOO
Justin Jackson, North Carolina: De’Aaron Fox and Joel Berry II were both terrific on Saturday as well, but it was Jackson whose performance was the most notable. He finished with a career-high 34 points, doing everything he could to keep the Tar Heels within striking distance of Kentucky. No one will remember it, but the three he hit with two minutes left to give the Tar Heels the lead was as big of a shot as he’s made in his career. UNC fans are allowed to be disappointed with the final result, but someone had to lose. The Tar Heels proved something on Saturday.
- Kelan Martin, Butler: Speaking of proving something, the Bulldogs thrust themselves into the conversation of Big East contenders with a win over Indiana on Saturday. Martin was the star of the show, popping off for 28 points and helping lead the Bulldogs to a 14-point halftime lead that Indiana could never fully recover from.
- Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: The Boilermakers erased a 17-point first half deficit to knock off No. 21 Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday, and it was Swanigan that did the heavy lifting in their comeback. He finished with 26 points, 10 boards and four blocks as Notre Dame couldn’t handle Purdue’s small lineup.
- Yante Maten, Georgia: Is there a more underrated player in college basketball than Maten? He went for 30 points and six boards in a win over Charleston Southern just six days after he had 18 points, 15 boards and five blocks against Louisiana. On the season, the 6-foot-8 Maten is averaging 21.5 points, 8.7 boards and 1.9 blocks.