Monmouth Falls To Kentucky 93-76 In Inaugural Citi Hoops Classic
Monmouth was unable to keep up with Kentucky in the Hawks’ first game at MSG since 1997.
Going into their matchup with eighth-ranked Kentucky on Saturday, Monmouth knew that they needed to play a perfect game to stay with the Wildcats. With national respectability and an established brand, the Hawks was playing in arguably their toughest game of the season against John Calipari’s Kentucky team, a favorite to win the National Championship.
For the first few minutes of the game, the Hawks stayed with Kentucky. The Hawks’ smothering defense gave Monmouth with an early lead. However as the game progressed, Kentucky showed why they are once again ranked in the top ten in the country. The Wildcats defeated Monmouth at the Citi Hoops Classic 93-76 in front of a pro-Kentucky crowd at Madison Square Garden. This was the first-ever meeting between the schools.
While Micah Seaborn was a bright spot for Monmouth (4-for-7, 11 points in the first half), the rest of Hawks struggled offensively. Without Seaborn, Monmouth shot just 6-for-24 (25 percent) from the field in the opening half. Meanwhile, Kentucky shot 60 percent from the field, including 5-of-9 from the beyond the arc en route a 54-31 halftime lead. PJ Washington led the Wildcats with 16 first-half points as Kentucky dominated the rebounding battle 24-14.
The second half saw more of the same as Kentucky extended their lead to as much as 29 points. Monmouth showed flashes of what has made them the talk of college basketball with crisp ball movement and open shots. In the end, Kentucky was too much for the Hawks. Hamidou Diallo (23 points) and Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander (15 points) led the way for Kentucky, who moved to 8-1 on the season.
“I’m a little disappointed that the kids aren’t getting the respect I think that they deserve as players,” said Calipari after the game. “I don’t know if it’s people’s opinion or their hope that “this guy isn’t good or that guy isn’t”. We are just getting going. There are things we did in the first half that you would think that we’ve cracked through. We really haven’t but we’re getting in that direction and trending the right way.”
Deion Hammond led Monmouth with 19 points while Micah Seaborn finished with 18 points. The Hawks outscored Kentucky 45-39 in the second half, something that Monmouth Head Coach King Rice noticed.
“I am proud of my kids, when you look at the score it does not say how it really was, but Coach (Calipari) pointed out you beat us in the second half,” Rice during his postgame press conference. “I am proud because my kids kept fighting and when it’s Kentucky and they come with All-American players when they were in high school you could get discouraged but our kids did not get discouraged.”
The game marked the first time Monmouth played at Madison Square Garden since 1997. It also marked the sixth time in seven years that Monmouth faced a Top 25 opponent. Players at Monmouth are annually facing the top programs in the country. This means a battle-tested team that gains valuable experience prior to conference play beginning.
“It is incredible people now know who Monmouth is outside of New Jersey. We got to play at The Garden, we were outmatched like our (North) Carolina game but it was another step up to a major game. I think this team will continue to get better from dealing with this type of team.”