USA Today/Stephen R. Sylvanie

Malik Monk explodes for 47 points as Kentucky Wildcats beat North Carolina Tar Heels

The CBS Sports Classic expects a lot when that particular superlative is placed in the event's title.

Malik Monk helped ensure they got one Saturday.

The Kentucky guard set a new single-game freshman scoring record for the Wildcats, scoring 47 points to help lead No. 6 UK to a thrilling 103-100 victory over No. 7 North Carolina at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Monk, who went 18-of-28 from the field and 8-for-12 from beyond the 3-point arc, made a game-tying trey with 1:21 remaining and the go-ahead triple with 22 seconds left as the Cats finally staved off the relentless Tar Heels.

"Coach Cal told me to drive (on the game-winning shot)," Monk said with a sheepish grin, "but I as hot, so I just pulled up for the shot."

"They weren't just a bunch of baskets, they were daggers that gave us a chance," UK head coach John Calipari said.

Added UNC head coach Roy Williams: "Malik was off the charts today... Anytime a guy gets 47, that's pretty doggone good."

Monk's effort overshadowed a great performance by North Carolina's Justin Jackson, who scored 34 points in a losing effort. Joel Berry returned from a two-game injury absence to score 23 points, dish out seven assists for the Tar Heels (10-2).

Kentucky (10-1) also got 24 points and 10 assists from freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox and 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists from sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe.

The Cats led for all but 3:43 of the game and were up by as many as 12 in the first half, but the teams appeared to be evenly matched throughout the game. 

Kentucky shot 54 percent from the field, while North Carolina shot 53 percent. The Cats had 10 turnovers; the Heels nine. UK won the battle of the boards against the nation's top rebounding team, 39-35.

The ebb and flow felt more like late March than mid-December.

"That was a heckuva college basketball game if you don't care who won," Williams said. "But I do care who wins."  

https://twitter.com/JDrumUK/status/810284381721989120

In this All Wildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the highlights from the game...

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky took on a deep, experienced North Carolina squad that returned several players from last year's national championship game and never backed down. The Cats preached all week about how important the rebounding battle would be, and they responded with one of their best performances of the season on the glass. The Tar Heels entered the matchup with the No. 1 rebounding margin in college basketball at 14.8.

GAME BALL:

Malik Monk, Kentucky -- The Arkansas native eclipsed some big names in school history, including Terrence Jones and Jamal Murray, who shared the previous freshman scoring mark of 35 points. Monk tied Dan Issel (1970) for the sixth-most points scored by any UK player in a game. He surpassed Issel (41)  for the most points scored in program history against a Top 10 opponent. It also marked the most points scored by any player in college basketball this season.

BY THE NUMBERS:

1st - Player to eclipse the 40-point plateau in the Calipari Era.

4th - Time UK has topped the 100-point plateau this season.

23-15 - Kentucky narrowed UNC's lead in the all-time series between the bluebloods. 

27 - Points by Monk in the first half.

56 - The most points ever scored against a Roy Williams-coached team in the first half.

103 - The most points ever scored by UK in a win over UNC.

QUOTABLE:

"If you watched that game and never liked basketball, you're going to start liking basketball. Like, wow, if that's what it is, I'm going to start watching that." -- UK head coach John Calipari.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action Wednesday night against arch-rival Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center. The No. 11 Cardinals (10-1) rolled to an 87-56 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff for the Cats and Cards is 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.


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