Big Blue Nation had lots to celebrate Monday night as the Kentucky Wildcats remained undefeated on the season with a dominant win in the first ever Atlantis Showcase.
Hundreds of Kentucky fans packed the Imperial Resort at the Atlantis Resort last night to witness the Wildcats’ 115-69 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils.
De’Aaron Fox notched just the second triple double in the history of Kentucky basketball with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“It felt good. It was my most efficient game shooting wise. I prepped for the game the same. We got the win and we’re just trying to keep rolling,” Fox said, “They’ve been telling me to play harder. Coach says I’m always casual. I’ve just to listen and play with more effort and I can do this on a regular basis.”
Fox got his triple double when he dished the ball to Malik to Monk for a three on the wing and a 101-63 Lead with about four minutes left to play in the game.
“My mom told me to tell him thanks,” Fox said.
It was the second time for Fox playing in the Bahamas after they Nike EYBL game in August 2015.
Six Wildcats scored in double figures led by Malik Monk’s 23. Isaiah Briscoe scored 20 points and dished seven assists, Bam Edabayo had 12 points and nine rebounds, Wenyen Gabriel had 10 points and seven rebounds and Derek Willis scored seven off the bench.
Obinna Oleka led the Sun Devils with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Torian Graham and Tra Holder each scored 12 and Shannon Evans II chipped in with 11.
The Wildcats improved to 7-0 while the Sun Devils fell to 4-3. Kentucky leads the all-time series between the schools 4-0.
The Wildcats had 33 assists on 44 made field goals.
“We just love playing together. We’re like brothers so we’re just going to give each other the ball,” Adebayo said, “I came with intensity I was playing hard just trying to get off to a good start and I was able to do that.”
The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils for the second year after a 72-58 win last December in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky won each of its first six games of the season by and average of 21 points joining the 1932-33 teams and the ‘47-’48 teams as the only to do so.
Monday night’s 46 point was the largest margin of victory for this season.
Kentucky head coach, John Calipari said the trips not only benefit his teams but serves a dual purpose by engaging the travelling Kentucky fanbase.
“We were able to grow together. You want your guys together growing together. You cant put a price tag on that. We come down here, probably 1500 fans were here that got to see us play and the team did what we had to do,” he said, ““To see the fans down here and to have them sit through a practice like that is special. To be able to have them each take a picture with a team, those fans to make an effort to be here and be with us for a few days is good. We have a bunch of guys in a great frame of mind about playing for each other, being about them teammate than themselves yet being responsible for that challenge and developing the habits they need to win.”
Monk got the scoring binge started early with a floater on the opening possession and the Cats opened 6-7 from the field to take an early 12-5 lead. Indicative of the kind of night it was for Arizona State – Briscoe missed a layup on the next possession, stole it in the backcourt and found Adebayo for the dunk and three point play.
A Briscoe three puts Cats up 10 early, 20-10 around the 14 minute mark. The three point shot kept the Sun Devils in contention early and Tra Holder shot made it 38-25 with 5:41 to play. The ‘Cats answered with a 6-0 run on pair of Monk layups and Briscoe score. The lead got over 20 for the first time on a Fox putback to make it 46-25 at the 4:06 mark and they took a 58-30 lead at the half.
The ‘Cats take a 30 point lead on their first possession of the second half on a Monk baseline jumper. Derek Willis started the second half in place of Gabriel, and his recent thumb injury looked fine as he throws down a fastbreak dunk on an outlet. Kentucky went up 40 on Monk free throws and the lead eventually reached as much as 48.
Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley said his team, in the second year of his building process, has to learn from the experience and get better.
“As a competitor you feel a little shell-shocked in these moments. The reality is we’re in the 2nd year of a process and we hope to learn something from this. I thought they were spectacular. I talked to our staff after and I don’t think I’ve seen a faster team in my years coaching. I saw the 39-1 team a couple years ago and I would put this group in the conversation. They’re not as big but how quickly the game moves, we cant simulate that in practice,” he said, “We’ve got recover we have a tough schedule so we have to get back to the drawing board.”
It was the third win for Kentucky in the Bahamas in the last three years.
The Wildcats hosted the Big Blue Bahamas Tour in August 2014 when the team played against the Puerto Rican national team reserves, the Dominican national team and French Club Champagne Chalons-Reims.
Calipari deflected the notion that this team has drawn early comparisons to the 2015 team which finished 38-1, led by current Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns.
“There are a lot of wins to go to be that team. That team was special,” Calipari said, “The question now becomes how good can we be. I told them we need to have a close game, overtime game, team make their first 10 shots, need to be in tough physical battles and see who can respond. We just need to learn. Tonight we learned if we really guard, really rebound and fly, we can win. This team has a chance. It’s my job to keep defining reality and where we are, to figure ways we can improve.”