By Tony Acree For weeks, John Calipari, coach of the 5th ranked Kentucky Wildcats, has been trying to find production from someone other than his three big freshmen, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and sophomore Isaiah Briscoe. Especially his big men as production falls off when Adebayo is out of the game. Tonight, Bam was forced to the bench with 2 fouls with over 12 minutes left in the first half and two of his bigs showed they were ready to contribute.
Freshman Wenyen Gabriel and fellow wing man senior Derek Willis, gave the Cats the kind of production they have been missing in an 88-81 point win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi. Gabriel and Willis both scored 13 points each, going a combined 10-11 from the field, 5-6 from behind the three point line and pulling down a total of 13 rebounds from the power forward position. Gabriel also blocked 3 shots while putting together back to back good games following his 16 rebound effort against Auburn. Calipari said after the game, “He’s more confident shooting the ball and he’s doing better.”
De’Aaron Fox led all UK scorers with 21, Malik Monk 14, Isiah Briscoe 12. Malik Monk, who leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 21.8 points per game, had one of his worst games as a Cat, going 5-14 from the field with 5 turnovers. Monk, Fox and Briscoe went a combined 0-9 from behind the arc and Bam Adebayo stayed in foul trouble scoring only 4 points. The referees once again fell in love with their whistles with 52 fouls called, leading to an ugly game.
Bulldog coach Ben Howland rallied his team from an 18 point deficit to cut the Cat’s lead to 4 points on several occasions late in the second half, but they had no answer for De’Aaron Fox who drove to the rim at will for either a bucket or a foul shot. Lamar Peters tossed in 25 for the Bulldogs and was joined in double figures by Quindarry Witherspoon with 15 and Mario Kegler with 13.
The game saw tempers flair after a hard foul by Witherspoon on De’Aaron Fox in the final minute and ended with Witherspoon and Isaiah Briscoe in a shoving match. Double technical fouls were called on both players.
Kentucky next plays the 24th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in Rupp Arena on Saturday.