LAS VEGAS – Malik Monk smashed a record and Kentucky basketball landed its biggest win of the young season Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic. Monk poured in 47 points, including the clinching 3-pointer, as the Wildcats outdueled North Carolina 103-100 in a shootout that was as good a game as you’ll see this side of March.
Two of the top-scoring teams in the country combined for 107 points – separated by just five – in the first half as Tar Heels junior Justin Jackson tried match Monk. He could not, despite a 34-point night of his own.
Jackson pushed seventh-ranked North Carolina ahead by two with 47 seconds left, but Monk answered with the decisive three with 22 ticks remaining and a heavy Kentucky contingent erupted at T-Mobile Arena.
Monk scored more points than any freshman in UK history and helped the sixth-ranked Cats (10-1) stretch their second-half lead to double digits with 7:45 to go. But the Tar Heels (10-2) just kept coming, and Monk needed a little help from his friends.
Fellow freshman guard De’Aaron Fox ho-hummed his way to 24 points and 10 assists, while rookie big man Bam Adebayo had 13 and 7 rebounds. That and some Monk magic was just enough, as it turned out.
Player of the game
Hmmmmmm, let’s see. Monk had 27 points by intermission – tying Jamal Murray for most in a half in the John Calipari era at Kentucky – and finished 18 of 28 shooting with eight made 3-pointers. Monk is the first Calipari player at Kentucky to drop 40-plus and the first Wildcat to do it since Jodie Meeks’ 45 against Arkansas in 2009. That was the kind of performance about which folks who were here will be telling their grandkids.
Oh my God, Monk. Down two and BANG. pic.twitter.com/n4BFZ7fOfb
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) December 18, 2016
Stat line of the game
Kentucky’s Fox and Monk combined for 71 points, while UNC’s Jackson and Joel Berry went for 57 in maybe the most fun up-and-down game in college basketball so far this season. Both teams shot at least 53 percent from the field.
After the Tar Heels surged ahead 98-95 on a Jackson 3-pointer with just 1:37 to go, Monk almost immediately answered. When Jackson delivered another potential dagger later, Monk was right there again to one-up him.
What’s next for Kentucky basketball
The Wildcats now get their first true road test of the season against rival Louisville on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Kentucky basketball vs. North Carolina box score