LEXINGTON, Ky. -- How desperate was Kentucky's John Calipari on Tuesday against Georgia?
Although he may be the nation's most vocal opponent of playing zone defense, Calipari was forced to swallow his pride and give it the old college try after his Wildcats -- facing the possibility of their first three-game losing streak since he arrived in Lexington eight years ago -- fell behind the Bulldogs 19-5 in the game's opening minutes.
The move helped Kentucky rally back to a 29-29 tie at halftime, and thanks to a 31-point second-half explosion by freshman guard Malik Monk, the No. 8 Wildcats escaped with a 90-81 overtime win over the upset-minded Bulldogs.
"I don't know how we won, to be honest," Calipari said. "One, (Georgia) played well. We went zone, and I've got to give credit to (UK assistant coach) Tony Barbee. I'm not a zone coach. I don't like zone, and for two days we've been playing zone (in practice). We had to do it because we needed to get back to being sharp against it... So Tony coached it, and I just cringed."
It may have been painful for the UK boss to sit through, but it gave his team a chance to come off the proverbial ropes after Georgia came out swinging. The Bulldogs started the game 8-of-9 from the field, but missed 12 of their next 16 shots going into halftime as the Cats gradually inched closer.
Georgia wasn't finished, though, continuing its confident play throughout the night. It took a Monk contested jumper with under 10 seconds to play in regulation for UK to send the game to overtime. Once there, it was all Cats as steal by Willis led to a breakaway basket by Dominique Hawkins to take the lead for good.
Monk's sixth and seventh 3-pointers of the night and a pair of late free throws helped put the game way as he accounted for eight of UK's 14 points in overtime.
Said UGA head coach Mark Fox: "Monk, you have to give him credit. He made some guarded shots and he obviously was the big difference in the game. Give him credit because that was an outstanding performance by him.”
Kentucky (18-4, 8-1 SEC) also got 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists from sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe, who had to step into the point guard role due to De'Aaron Fox missing the game with an illness. Freshman center Bam Adebayo, riddled with foul trouble most of the night, added 12 points for the Cats.
Georgia (13-9, 4-5 SEC) was led by senior guard J.J. Frazier with 23 points, five assists and three steals. Junior foward Yante Maten followed with 22 points, while sophomore forward Derek Ogbeide added 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...
WHAT WE LIKED:
Coaches can be notoriously stubborn when it comes to running their systems and shunning alternatives, even when faced with likely defeat. To his credit, Calipari did not cling to man-to-man-or-die thinking in this one. His willingness to hand over some defensive calls to assistant coach Tony Barbee -- his zone guru -- may have saved the Cats on this night as it slowed Georgia down just long enough to get UK back in the game and for Malik Monk to catch fire.
Malik Monk, Kentucky -- The Arkansas native continued his assault on the Calipari-era record books at UK with yet another remarkable offensive performance. Amazingly, Monk did not score a point until the 10:23 mark of the first half. It marked the seventh time he's been over the 25-point mark this season and the third time over 30, tying Jamal Murray for the most in school history by a freshman.
BY THE NUMBERS:
0 - Three-game losing streaks by UK under Calipari.
1st - Time UK has trailed by at least 14 points and come back to win since November of 2009 against Miami (Ohio).
7 of 11 - Monk's night from 3-point range.
11 of 15 - Briscoe's night from the free-throw line.
24-3 - Second-chance points advantage for the Cats, who outrebounded UGA 45-32.
45 - Minutes for Briscoe, the entire game, and a new career high.
"It's pretty fun when he gets going like that. I get to see that every day in practice." -- UK's Bam Adebayo on Malik Monk.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday at No. 24 Florida in a matchup between two of the league's best teams. Tipoff is slated for 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Gators (16-5, 6-2 SEC) will play host to Missouri on Thursday prior to their matchup with the Cats.