LAS VEGAS -- There was a Kentucky game recently where, by John Calipari's estimation, Malik Monk went six minutes without touching the ball.
Six full and straight minutes.
"Well, that's on me," Calipari thought to himself. So the Kentucky coach decided to do something he's rarely done throughout his Hall of Fame career. He put in three plays designed with the sole purpose of ensuring Monk's teammates have no choice but to throw him the ball. One of the three plays is called "Chin." Kentucky ran it to open Saturday's game vs. North Carolina. The result was a long Monk jumper that rattled in. And that's how an all-time great performance got started.
"Malik's crazy," said Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox. "He had, I think, 47."
Including the game-winning dagger 3-pointer in a 103-100 victory over the Tar Heels here inside T-Mobile Arena in the nightcap of the CBS Sports Classic. And if there's a better regular-season game the rest of this season, I'll be surprised. And if there's been a better one in recent history, I don't remember it. Because this game had it ALL. Two big brands. Two top-10 teams. Two Hall of Fame coaches. Lots of future NBA players. A lead-change in the last 20 seconds. And a historically awesome performance from a bouncy phenom who disobeyed his coach to win it.
"Coach Cal told me to drive [on the game-winning possession]," Monk acknowledged. "But I was hot. So I didn't."
"I said, 'Drive the ball! Drive the ball!' And he shot a three and it went in," Calipari said with a smile. "So I said, 'Great shot, kid. Way to shoot the ball.'"
It was just that kind of day for Monk.
He took 28 shots and made 18 of them -- none bigger than the transition 3-pointer, against Calipari's wishes, that was launched over Isaiah Hicks and swished with 16.7 seconds left. It gave the Wildcats the lead for good and Monk 47 points, which is more than all but four UK players have ever scored in a regular-season game.
Anthony Davis never got 47.
Neither did John Wall. Or Karl-Anthony Towns. Or DeMarcus Cousins. Or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Or Jamal Murray. Or Tony Delk. Or Tayshaun Prince. Or Jamal Mashburn. Or Rex Chapman. Or Ron Mercer. Or Sam Bowie. Or Kyle Macy. Or anybody not named Jodie Meeks, Dan Issel, Cliff Hagan or Bob Burrow.
"[Monk is] really good," said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team shot 53.0 percent and lost. "I saw him put on a show at [the Nike Peach Jam in South Carolina] when he was a high school player. I thought he was a heckuva player. Loved him. Tried to recruit him and didn't feel like we were going to get him. But he put on a show. ... And [today] he just jumped up and made the three. ... I thought we made him work for it, but it's hard to say you feel good about your defense when the guy gets 47. You just have to congratulate him. That's pretty doggone good."
Make that pretty doggone great.
And it's the main reason Kentucky now has a signature win before it heads to Louisville this Wednesday to face Rick Pitino's 11th-ranked Cardinals. Assuming the Wildcats take the SEC by multiple games, which they should, this victory over North Carolina is one they'll use to make the case to the selection committee that they deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
That's a topic for another day.
This day should be about this amazing performance and enjoyable game. Because college basketball doesn't always have those things, you know? Great as the sport can be, it often delivers clunkers on big stages.
But not this time.
Malik Monk was fantastic. And the game was tremendous.
"If you watched that game, even if you've never liked basketball, you're gonna start liking basketball after that," Calipari said in closing. "Like, 'Wow. If that's what basketball is, I'm gonna watch that.'"