The only Kentucky player that didn’t show up ready to play on Friday night was the guy that everyone came to see.
De’Aaron Fox scored a team-high 19 points, Bam Adebayo had 15 points and 18 boards, Isaiah Briscoe chipped in with 17 and Derek Willis added eight points, seven boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks as the No. 2 seed Wildcats held off No. 15 Northern Kentucky, 79-70, to advance to the second round to face No. 10 seed Wichita State.
You’ll notice the name missing in that paragraph above is Malik Monk, Kentucky’s leading scorer and the single-most dangerous player in college basketball this season.
On Friday night, Monk shot 3-for-11 from the floor and 0-for-6 from three, finishing with an unimpressive 12 points in an unimpressive win for the Cats.
And frankly, I think that is a good sign for Kentucky.
Look, Malik Monk isn’t going to be as quiet as he was on Friday all that often. He’s just far too talented for that, and we all know what he’s capable of doing when he gets going. The concern for this Kentucky team wasn’t whether or not Monk would have an off-night, it was whether they were going to be able to survive it. On Friday, they did, because Fox continued to play well, Adebayo was a monster and Willis and Briscoe thrived in the roles they’ve been asked to play.
And while the final score was a nine-point deficit, the game was never really that close. Kentucky jumped out to a double-figure lead early and never really got threatened.