NEW YORK -- Kentucky rolled to an easy 93-76 win over Monmouth Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, routing the Hawks in the Citi Hoops Classic.
After trailing 5-4 in the opening minutes, Kentucky went on a 17-3 run capped by PJ Washington free throws to make it 21-8 at the 12:42 mark of the first half. Washington put up 16 points in the first half, finished off by his dunk with 1:33 left that made it 52-25, and they took a 54-31 lead into halftime. He finished with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting, with six rebounds and one assist to go along with an astounding four blocks.
Hamidou Diallo owned the second half, as he scored 15 of his team-high 23 points in the second frame. He shot 8-of-13 overall, including a three-pointer, with four rebounds, an assist, and two steals. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a big day for the Wildcats as well, with 23 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 2-for-4 on threes, nine assists, and six rebounds. For Monmouth, Deion Hammond had 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting and 4-of-11 on threes, and Micah Seaborn had 18 points on 5-for-14 shooting and 4-of-10 from behind the arc, with five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said of Washington's day, "It was good. Look, I always come back to this and I've always tried to be this guy. Individual teams have got to improve before your team can get better. So, PJ lost that weight and all of a sudden he didn't look like the same guy. I wasn't sure if it would be this game, but he practiced this way."
Calipari continued on the rest of the team, "Hami (Diallo) being a more willing passer, doing less, looks way better. We still have a couple of the pieces. Kevin Knox struggled today, wasn't one of his better games, but that's fine. It's good for the soul to go for 1-for-9. What you would learn if you go 1-for-5, would you shoot jumpers or just keeping going the basket until they foul you and get baskets? Or, you end up going 1-for-9, which is what he did. It's a good lesson for him.
"There were some good things from the game. (We had) 19 turnovers, my guess is 10 or 12 of them were unforced. They're not even forced turnovers. Not like they put us in a bad position, they were just, we gave them the ball. We've got to stop it. We're better, the things that we worked on, the press and some other things that looked better. How we were trying to play, but we're still not capable of playing 40 minutes."
"Monmouth, I tell you, and I told (Coach) King (Rice) prior to, they've lost games, like, I can't believe how they've lost. Four overtimes, buzzer beaters, a tip out versus a free throw miss. They have played, and again, in the first half, there were spells where they struggled, but then you see them at the end, how they played, they're going to be good in their league, and I said to him, you know, I've watched the games and the tapes, and he says to me, we could've won this, won that one, but that's how this stuff goes."
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and new manager Aaron Boone, pictured among the Madison Square Garden crowd: (Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)