LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mychal Mulder was out sick. De’Aaron Fox got hurt. Isaiah Briscoe had no points and seven turnovers. South Carolina got within four points in the second half. And still, John Calipari and Kentucky cruised to an 85-69 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Afterward, Calipari was generally pleased, because “to be down that way, and against a team that creates havoc … I thought our guys performed and were prepared, knew where to throw balls because of how they play.”
Malik Monk led the charge with 27 points, followed by 18 from Bam Adebayo and a combined 23 points and 12 rebounds from “four” men Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis. Perhaps biggest of all, with Fox out, was senior Dominique Hawkins delivering 5 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal off the bench. The highlights of Calipari’s postgame remarks:
- “Dom was terrific,” the coach said. “I put Dom at point guard and then (Briscoe) didn’t have every second on his shoulder. And then he started making plays and coming up with balls. … Dom plays point every day in practice against De’Aaron Fox. Every day. So Dom looked fine.” Calipari’s update on Fox’s injured ankle sounded promising after the game.
- And what of Briscoe’s sudden struggles? “Isaiah’s had back-to-back kind of bust games. I mean, he’s better than this. At one point in the first half, I just said, ‘Look, I’m going to go without you now.’ … Isaiah knows. He said, ‘I’m not playing well. I gotta get this going.’ And we’re not the team we need to be unless he’s playing well. He had no points today. Come on. He backs into points. He had nothing today. That’s OK – we still won and he was happy as heck in there – but there’s a concern for him. Like, c’mon, I know I’m better than this.’ ”
- Adebayo threw down some ferocious dunks, made 5 of 6 field-goal attempts and 8 of 12 free throws, finishing with 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 28 minutes. But it sure seemed like he could’ve done more, could’ve had his way against South Carolina. “I told Bam after the game, ‘You’re too nice.’ I said, ‘I would strangle a couple of these guys that aren’t throwing you the ball. If I was you, I would. You’re so nice, you don’t say anything.’ ” Calipari’s continued demand of Kentucky’s guards: “Throw him the ball.”
- Monk bounced back from a 5-of-14 shooting, 5-turnover game at Mississippi State by making 9 of 14 shots, including 4 of 7 threes, against the Gamecocks. “He’s been doing unbelievable work the last week,” Calipari said. “Man, he’s put in his time. He’s mastering his craft.” The coach retold his story from Thursday night when, after film, practice and more film, he found Monk and Briscoe in the gym together going full-tilt on an extra workout. “That’s what we need to see. My job is to get them to come together. Their job is to be responsible for themselves.”
- Oh, and here’s your obligatory Hamidou Diallo update. (Calipari is not planning to play him this season.)