LAS VEGAS – Malik Monk finalized an incredible scoring display on Saturday with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 22 seconds to play to seal North Carolina’s fate and lift Kentucky to a 103-100 victory at the T-Mobile Arena.
The freshman guard scored a career-high 47 points on 18-of-28 shooting. The 47 points are the second-most allowed by an opponent in school history and the most allowed during the Roy Williams era. Georgia Tech's Rich Yunkus also scored 47 points against UNC on Feb. 14, 1970. Duke's Dick Groat owns the scoring record by an opponent, posting 48 points on Feb. 29, 1952.
Williams sent waves of defenders at Monk, although none were effective in locking down, let alone containing, the freshman guard. Monk needed just 11 seconds to score his first basket. He had eight points before the first media timeout and 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting by halftime. UNC guard Kenny Williams drew the initial assignment, but it wasn’t long before Joel Berry, Nate Britt and Justin Jackson were taking their turns at the scorching hot rookie.
“He got hot, and he got hot early,” Williams said after the game. “He got himself going and got in rhythm. I was trying to do everything I could, trying to get a hand up on all of his shots. I tried to keep him from catching the ball, but there were so many screens out there that they were setting for him, so it was a little bit harder to do that. Once he got the ball, I just wanted to get a hand up on his shot and disrupt him anyway I could.”
Making matters worse is that UNC’s primary off guard options – Williams and Britt – combined for two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Boston College’s Tyrese Rice held the previous scoring record against a Roy Williams-coached UNC team (46 points, March 1, 2008).
Late Rally Falls Short
The Tar Heels trailed 84-74 with 7:45 before sophomore forward Luke Maye sparked a late rally with back-to-back 3-pointers. UNC took its first lead since the opening minutes at 98-95 with a Justin Jackson 3-pointer with 1:37 to play.
The Wildcats closed the game on an 8-2 run.
With Monk delivering a career-defining performance, Jackson met the challenge in providing a Tar Heel counter option. The junior wing had scored a career-high 27 points in two previous games this season, and blew through that against Kentucky with 34 points on 10-of-17 shooting (4-of-7). Jackson played a team-high 36 minutes and slid down to the four spot to offset the post foul trouble.
He scored UNC's final five points, including a 3-pointer with 1:37 to go to push his team in front, 98-95.
“He stepped up and tried to take over,” Hicks said. “That’s a really good sign to see one of your players doing.”
High Octane Potential Delivers
UNC and Kentucky combined for 161 possessions in a highly-efficient scoring affair that more resembled a NBA game than a college contest. The Tar Heels shot 53.0 percent and averaged 1.24 points per possession, while the Wildcats shot 54.1 percent and averaged 1.29 points per possessions.
It's only the second time in school history that both teams scored 100 points. UNC drops to 52-2 when scoring 100 points and 180-4 when shooting 50 percent or higher in the Williams era.
Foul Trouble Factor
North Carolina’s frontcourt was penciled in as an advantage entering Saturday’s matchup. Kentucky’s attacking style largely neutralized the Tar Heels’ frontcourt, as Kennedy Meeks fouled out in 20 minutes and Isaiah Hicks was limited to 15 minutes after picking up four fouls in his first nine minutes of action.
Both seniors were sidelined for significant stretches due to foul trouble. Hicks scored two points on 1-of-2 shooting in six minutes before halftime, while Meeks scored eight points in nine minutes.
That foul trouble forced Tony Bradley into more playing time, and even the freshman picked up his second foul just before the break. With limited post options, Maye saw 21 minutes (11 points, 3 rebounds) and Roy Williams elected to play a significant amount of small ball with Justin Jackson dropping down to the four.
UNC’s bigs managed just 10 field goal attempts in the first half.
Saturday marked the fourth time in five games that Hicks has been called for four or more fouls. The Oxford, N.C. native is averaging 4.3 fouls and just 15.3 minutes of playing time over his last three games.
The ever-present foul situation disrupts Hicks's ability to work into the flow of the game, which admittedly affects his play on both ends of the floor.
“You’ve probably seen it a few times, but I probably messed up by giving up a layup and Bam [Adebayo] a dunk because I was worried about fouling too much,” Hicks said. “But you still have to play defense.”
After a slow start, Berry returned to his standard level of play in scoring 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and three turnovers. The junior point guard, who missed UNC's last two games with a sprained left ankle, showed no signs of lingering issues with the injury.
"I think my first full practice was Thursday before we left," Berry said. "And I still felt a little uncomfortable, but when we got here just sitting down and resting my ankle once we got here felt pretty good. As you could tell, I was pretty good, but I was just glad I was able to get back out there with the guys and be able to compete."
Tweets of Note
UNC will host Northern Iowa on Wednesday at the Smith Center before taking its Christmas break. The Panthers, who upset the Tar Heels last year in Cedar Falls, are 5-5 and have lost four of their last six games.