No. 1 Kentucky rolls past Arizona State 115-69 in Bahamas
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Kentucky was already up big when Isaiah Briscoe snatched down a second-half rebound, took a dribble and fired an outlet pass ahead to Malik Monk. The ball was high and off target, but Monk went airborne and redirected the ball with his right hand to Wenyen Gabriel for a transition reverse dunk.
Yes, the top-ranked Wildcats were so good Monday night that they were turning even mistakes into highlight-reel plays.
Freshman De’Aaron Fox posted the second triple-double in school history with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to lead that dominating effort as Kentucky beat Arizona State 115-69 on Monday night.
Monk scored 23 points for the Wildcats (7-0), who dominated an undersized team and quickly turned the game into a romping show of their athleticism and ability to run in transition.
Kentucky led by double figures roughly 6 minutes in, led 58-30 by halftime then scored the first 12 points after the break to go up 40 with 15 minutes left.
“My question now when I go back will be: how now do we take this to another level?” coach John Calipari asked.
The game, billed as the Atlantis Showcase, was played at the same ballroom-turned-arena that hosted last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Fox was the easy choice as MVP, though the Wildcats had five players score in double figures and put up dominating numbers in just about every area. They shot 52 percent. They finished with a 59-33 rebounding advantage. They scored 21 points off turnovers and finished with 33 assists on 44 baskets.
“We just love playing together,” said freshman Bam Adebayo, who had 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. “We’re like brothers, so we’re going to give each other the ball.”
Sam Cunliffe scored 14 points for the Sun Devils (4-3), who shot just 34 percent and made 8 of 26 3-point attempts (31 percent).
“As a competitor you feel a little shell-shocked in these moments,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “I would’ve hoped we would’ve performed a little better. ... I thought they were spectacular.”
Arizona State: Hurley knew it would be a tough task to slow the Wildcats and noted his team would have to avoid turnovers to do so. Instead, the overmatched and undersized Sun Devils had as many turnovers as baskets in the first 8 minutes and could manage little more than to fire up 3-pointers.
“I’m going to think long and hard about what we’re going to learn from it,” Hurley said. “Hopefully we’ll get something out of this.”
Kentucky: Calipari said he wants to see how his team handles a close game. The Wildcats still haven’t gotten one; their closest margin has been 21 points. Kentucky has scored 100-plus points in three straight games for the first time since December 1977.
FOX’S BIG NIGHT
Fox, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Houston, had 10 points and nine rebounds by halftime on the way to MVP honors and triple-double No. 2 for Kentucky. The other one came from Chris Mills in December 1988.
Fox finished 6 of 9 from the field.
“I didn’t even know that’s how long it’s been,” Fox said. “But it felt good. Honestly it was my most efficient game shooting-wise, so that’s what I feel good about.”
Kentucky’s hold on No. 1 in the AP Top 25 doesn’t look to be loosening anytime soon.
THE HIGHLIGHT MOMENT
The Briscoe-to-Monk-to-Gabriel dunk gave Kentucky an 83-40 lead with 11:58 left.
″‘SportsCenter’ just popped into my head,” Hurley said. “That’ the first word I saw when I saw that play. You don’t see many plays like that. Just crazy, athletic. And those guys, they’re trained to do that, they really are.”
Briscoe had missed the past two games with what Calipari described Sunday as a “butt bruise,” but the sophomore finished with 20 points and seven assists. In addition, Derek Willis, who left Friday’s win against UT Martin with a thumb injury, finished with 11 points and six boards in 16 minutes.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils host UNLV on Saturday.
Kentucky: The Wildcats return home to host No. 11 UCLA on Saturday.
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