LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky basketball clobbered Arkansas on Saturday night, 97-71, despite an off night from star Malik Monk against his home-state team. John Calipari didn’t need to worry because several other Wildcats rose to the occasion, none more so than their freshman point guard.
“De’Aaron Fox was ridiculous,” Calipari said after he delivered 27 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds. “He’s been doing extra work. He’s been coming to practice early – not by choice. He really has been working, and it showed in the game. I said to the guys, ‘What do you want to say to him?’ Do it every night, man. Play this way. This is who you are.”
Here are the other highlights of what Calipari said after a chippy, foul-filled game:
- The Razorbacks were called for 31 fouls, there were two near fights – one after Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford stomped on Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe – both head coaches sprinted out onto the court at one point in anger and UK’s strength coach was ejected. Calipari demanded cool heads from his players, saying, “Games are going to get heated, they’re going to get testy, and we do not You put your arms up and walk away.” But he liked his guys’ toughness, as Fox came to Briscoe’s rescue and Adebayo bowed up on his own behalf following a hard foul. “Let me say this: My team won’t be bullied,” Calipari said. “This isn’t that kind of team.”
- Isaiah Briscoe had a strong night – 15 points, 8 rebounds – but his game was most notable for the height of his shots. Calipari harped on him all week to shoot it higher, because he’s been getting shots blocked in the lane. He then had two early shots blocked Saturday before finally caving in and lofting higher shots in the paint. He missed the first, but Bam Adebayo dunked it back in, just as Calpari promised. And then next couple dropped. “He’s so mad at me,” a grinning Calipari said. “What happened to his first two shots? They got blocked. And I said, ‘You get another shot blocked, I’m taking you out.’ So now he shot them high. He missed them, but we rebounded them and dunked them. Then he made two, shooting them high. Oh, he can do it, but you know, he’s just arguing with me like he can’t. It drove him crazy, because we rebounded every one of his misses and he made two.”
- What about Monk, the Lepanto, Ark., native who played high school ball just down the road from Arkansas’ campus? He had two points in the first half and finished with a dozen – almost half his season average – missing all five of the 3-pointers he attempted. “I said after: ‘Malik, it’s really hard playing your hometown team. It’s just hard.’ I said, ‘Look, we took (now-assistant) Tony Barbee home when I was at UMass. Tony was a heckuva player. He went 1 for 12 at Purdue.’ It’s hard to play those kinds of games. You can say it’s not hard, but it’s really hard.”
- Senior Derek Willis busted a 3-for-14 slump from beyond the 3-point arc by swishing his first three – and his first five shots overall – against Arkansas. He finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 19 minutes off the bench. “I thought Derek Willis was outstanding, getting better defensively, getting better rebounding the ball,” Calipari said. “The other thing we’ve done with he and Wenyen: They’re with Kenny (Payne) and the big guys when we’re doing all the pick-and-roll and rotating and scheming defensively with bigs. (Then) I’m bringing them down with the guards and letting them do all the shooting stuff.”
- Gabriel got in early foul trouble and had just 3 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in 12 minutes. He missed an open 3-pointer and then traveled on another. “Why didn’t you shoot it? Because he missed the last one. Well, you can’t play that way,” Calipari said. “You miss both of those and maybe miss them badly … you get in the gym tonight … by yourself and you’re still there until one o’clock in the morning and you’re working on shooting. That’s how you get better. You owe it to the team to be disciplined enough to do what you’re supposed to do. Do your job. His job is to shoot that ball. We created a good shot for him. Your job is to shoot it.”