INDIANAPOLIS — Malik Monk’s cold streak followed him into the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where he missed all six of his 3-pointers and scored a merely mortal 12 points in a closer-than-expected opening win over Northern Kentucky. So what’s wrong with Kentucky’s superstar?
“Well, he didn’t practice this week because he had a lower-back, butt bruise, whatever you want to call it,” coach John Calipari said. The injury occurred when Monk took a charge in the SEC title game. “He didn’t practice for two days.”
Maybe that helps explain one bad game — although Monk said he was feeling fine by the time the Wildcats played NKU — but it does not solve the riddle of now five consecutive sub-par performances (by his lofty standards). He’s made just 3 of 21 3-pointers in that span after making 92 of 221 in his first 30 games.
He’s averaged just 11.4 points in the last five games after averaging 21.7 in the first 30. But this is not an unfamiliar experience for Monk, an All-American and SEC Player of the Year, who arrived in Lexington as a 5-star recruit with a reputation for being streaky.
“I was shooting bad in a high school, same (kind of) stretch, but I got over it. Just gotta attack the rim” until the long-range funk lifts, he said. “If I see one ball go in, I’m going to be fine, though. That’s why I tried to get to the free-throw line and see a couple balls go in.”
Monk asked for and got the ball late in Friday night’s game as the Wildcats were trying to put away the Norse, and he sank 5 of 6 free throws to close it out. His coach hopes that will help snap him out of this recent cold spell.
“He’s one of those ones you say, ‘Man, he’s due.’ Let’s just hope he’s due,” Calipari said. “Come on, he’s had about three games where he hasn’t made shots. He’ll break out at some point, because he’s too talented, and he’s got a great spirit about him.”
Sunday’s second-round game against Wichita State (31-4) would be a decent time to heat up again.