PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas, Sporting Alert – No. 1 Kentucky will look to extend its undefeated run this season when it takes on Arizona State in the Atlantis Showcase at Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas, Monday night.
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The Wildcats (6-0) are off to an impressive start to the season with gifted freshman Malik Monk, who has scored in double figures in each of the last six games and collected at least 23 points in three of the past four contests, leading the team in scoring with 18.7 points per battle.
Kentucky, which is averaging 92.3 points per game as a team, has outscored its previous opponents by 21 or more points and is coming off a 111-76 rout of UT-Martin on Friday night, which was the squad’s biggest victory so far this season.
In that win, guard Monk poured in a career-high 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting and dished out seven assists, while De’Aaron Fox added 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Wildcats.
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Almost every other coach would have been delighted with the start Kentucky has made thus far, but not coach John Calipari, who admits his team needs to be tested.
“We need close games to see – alright, who and how do we finish a game?” Calipari explained. “Who do we finish with and how do we finish? Who can make the play?
“Who cannot – absolutely not – be in the game? But, until you’re in a close game you don’t know. … Believe me, I don’t want these kind of scores.
“I want the other team – at times I’d like us to shoot 32 percent and win. Like just God awful, can’t make a shot and still win the game.
“It’s important for them to know, you don’t have to make every shot to win a game. This is a long season.”
Arizona State goes into the clash with Kentucky with a 4-2 record and has won two of the last three games this season.
The Sun Devils are giving away an average 79.2 points per game, which could be exploited by the Wildcats, especially if they get going with their outside shooting.
In the last outing, Arizona State picked up a 127-110 win over The Citadel on Wednesday, with freshman Sam Cunliffe scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and Kodi Justice scoring a season-high 20 points for the winners.
Kentucky heads into this battle as a 17-point favourite to beat Arizona State but will the scenery in the Bahamas be a distraction?
“We all know why we’re here,” Cats junior guard Mychal Mulder said. “It’s a cool experience to be able to come to the Bahamas and see all the sightseeing and the water park and all that.
“We know the primary focus and primary reason that we’re here is to get a W on the road. We’re all focused.”
Junior guard Tra Holder currently leads the PAC-12 outfits with 18.0 points per game through six outings.