LEXINGTON, Ky. — Gulp. Kentucky basketball finally unleashed the full force of its loaded backcourt Tuesday night, and it was not pretty for visiting Texas A&M. The Wildcats smashed the Aggies, 100-58, to the howling delight of a packed Rupp Arena.
Sixth-ranked Kentucky (12-2, 2-0 SEC) led by 23 points by halftime, at which point it had harassed A&M (8-5, 0-2) into 38.5 percent shooting and 15 turnovers. The margin ballooned to 40 with almost 10 minutes left to play.
When the pounding stopped, guards De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe had combined for 54 points, 13 assists and just 4 turnovers, while the Aggies had coughed up 25 turnovers that UK turned into 35 points.
The Cats delivered their most suffocating defensive performance of the season so far, making A&M work for every shot, and simply ran away from the Aggies on the other end. It was a breathtaking demolition and, Kentucky fans hope, a preview of things to come.
This team has no problem scoring, but its defense has been shaky so far this season. But if this is what the Wildcats are becoming, they’re potentially devastating.
Player of the game
Monk did that thing again, swishing two early threes to set the tone and splashing three in a row early in the second half to extend UK’s lead to 36 with 12 minutes remaining. He finished with 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Monk has scored 20-plus points nine times in just 14 career games and remains on pace to smash UK’s school record for made 3-pointers in a season and a freshman record for points in a season. When he’s locked in, look out — and it seems he is more than he isn’t.
Stat line of the game
It’s weird, because the numbers weren’t huge for freshman forward Bam Adebayo, but he continued his steep upward trajectory. Coming off a career-high 25 points at Ole Miss, he had 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in just 23 minutes.
He showed off an array of skills: skying for blocked shots, a steal, drive, Euro step to get free for a layup, a post-up and spin move for a monster jam, and, finally, a post-up and turnaround jump hook. It was the latest in a string of strong performances that suggest the 6-foot-10, 260-pound star is putting it all together.
The Aggies had all the momentum … for the first 30 seconds. They seized a quick 3-0 lead, but Kentucky roared back with 15 unanswered points to set a suffocating tone. Briscoe buried a three, Fox lobbed to Adebayo, followed by a steal and slam, consecutive Monk 3-pointers and a windmill Monk dunk. Ball game, basically. A&M looked immediately defeated.
What’s next for Kentucky basketball
The Wildcats stay home for a showdown on Saturday with Arkansas (12-2, 1-1), which won a thriller at Tennessee on Tuesday night. The game will be at 8:30 p.m. on SEC Network. Kentucky’s next road test is Jan. 10 at Vanderbilt.
Kentucky vs. Texas A&M box score
Hat tip to Briscoe, who followed his triple-double with 13 points and 7 assists, but more impressively hit all three of his 3-point tries. Notably bad from beyond the arc for most of his time at UK, the sophomore has now hit 6 of his last 7 3-point attempts.